Federal Rules to Require Methadone Clinic Accreditation
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration published new rules yesterday that will require methadone clinics to be accredited like hospitals and other health care facilities, the AP/Las Vegas Sun reports. While clinics have traditionally been inspected by the FDA, those inspections have been "widely criticized as inadequate." Under the new rules, SAMHSA will contract with private organizations -- such as the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO), which accredits hospitals -- to investigate methadone facilities and practices. The new rules also require clinics to "tailor therapy to addicts' differing needs" and to offer increased physician supervision. According to SAMHSA's substance abuse treatment chief, Dr. H. Westley Clark, the new rules also will no longer restrict all addicts to a six-day methadone supply; instead, recovering addicts in good standing for a year will be allowed to take home two-week supplies of the treatment, and those doing well after two years will be able to take home a month's worth of supplies, a measure that "should free some room in crowded methadone clinics." The AP/Las Vegas Sun notes that neighborhoods often object to methadone clinics' "controversial" presence and that some states have no clinics at all, while others have long waiting lists. Holly Catania of the New York-based Lindesmith Center-Drug Policy Foundation -- which advocates drug policy reform -- called the rules a "positive step forward" but noted that it is "unclear" how much accreditation will improve patient care, adding that she found it "disappointing [that] there's nothing in the regulations that would expand access to this lifesaving treatment." The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy estimates that only 20% of the nation's 980,000 heroin addicts receive treatment with methadone or another substance called LAMM; the FDA is also expected to approve a third therapy, the synthetic narcotic buprenorphine, later this year. To view the new regulations, go to http://www.samhsa.gov/news/click5_frame.html and click "Final Rule Published in the Federal Register." Please note that you will need Adobe Acrobat Reader to access the rules (AP/Las Vegas Sun, 1/17).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.