ATLANTIC CITY — A new rule announced Monday aims to improve access nationwide to medication for individuals with opioid use disorder.

The Drug Enforcement Administration's rule gets rid of some red tape that's been likely blocking narcotic treatment programs (NTP) from serving all of the people who want medication-assisted treatment (MAT), especially individuals in typically underserved communities.

Specifically, treatment providers should have an easier time obtaining a license to operate methadone vans. The rule allows NTP locations to add mobile units to their existing DEA registrations, eliminating the separate registration requirement.

Methadone is one of three FDA-approved medications for opioid use disorder.

"Although DEA is a law enforcement agency, we know we cannot arrest our way out of this devastating problem," Thomas Prevonzik, deputy assistant administrator of the DEA's diversion control division, said during a press briefing.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention cites 92,700 lives lost to the addiction and overdose epidemic in the 12 months through October 2020. Preliminary numbers suggest that drugs took more than 3,000 lives annually in New Jersey in 2020, 2019 and 2018.

Following the press briefing, federal officials visited Atlantic City to meet with folks operating a methadone van and to promote the new rule, which goes into effect on July 28.

A joint pilot program in Atlantic County uses a bus, outfitted with exam and intake rooms, to bring MAT to county inmates with opioid use disorder. Methadone is provided on the bus, and other forms of treatment are provided behind the walls of the jail.

"We know this works," said Sarah Adelman, acting commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Human Services. "Every life is worth saving, MAT works, and treatment is often most effective when it is brought directly to the people who need it."

Adelman said DHS also provides funding for mobile vans that serve non-incarcerated individuals with opioid use disorder in Atlantic City, Camden, Paterson, Plainfield and Trenton.

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