Washington, D.C., Mar. 4, 2022 — Today, 72 organizations asked the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to permanently waive the requirement that patients receive an in-person evaluation prior to being prescribed controlled substances via telemedicine. The organizations, convened by the American Psychiatric Association, the American Telemedicine Association, and ATA Action submitted the letter to the DEA as it is currently developing the Special Registration process for the use of telemedicine to prescribe controlled substances under the Ryan Haight Act.

During the COVID-19 public health emergency, the DEA used its authority to waive this requirement, enabling clinicians to safely prescribe controlled substances remotely via telehealth. This helped patients access clinically appropriate medications, including for mental health and substance use disorder treatment. In the letter, the organizations express concern that, when the public health emergency waiver ends, many patients, especially new patients, will be left without access to care.

“It is essential that the DEA and HHS work with Congress to permanently remove the prior in-person requirement and any restrictions on the location of the patient, post pandemic,” said Kyle Zebley, vice president, public policy, American Telemedicine Association and executive director, ATA Action. “We urge policymakers to consider that, during the pandemic, telemedicine effectively increased access to necessary care for patients in their home or other location, without increased diversion related to the waiver. We welcome the opportunity to discuss a proposed framework to ensure Americans maintain access to clinically appropriate care.”

“Our experience during the pandemic was that telehealth meant our member psychiatrists were able to treat more patients, which was critical as we faced a mental health crisis,” said APA CEO and Medical Director Saul Levin, M.D., M.P.A. “Extending this waiver permanently will ensure patients can continue to access life-saving mental health and substance use treatment, especially those who are geographically distant from their clinicians or face other disparities.”

The letter calls on the DEA and HHS to work with Congress to remove the prior in-person requirement permanently post pandemic and urges the DEA to eliminate the prior in-person requirement and remove any restrictions on the location of the patient in the Special Registration process.

About ATA Action
ATA Action recognizes that telehealth and virtual care have the potential to transform the healthcare delivery system by improving patient outcomes, enhancing the safety and effectiveness of care, addressing health disparities, and reducing costs. ATA Action is a registered 501c6 company and an affiliated trade organization of the American Telemedicine Association (ATA), the only organization completely focused on advancing telehealth. ATA Action follows the ATA’s well-established, carefully defined Policy Principles that support the appropriate use of technology to reimagine care delivery to ensure all people receive care where and when they need it. #telehealthishealth

About the ATA
As the only organization completely focused on advancing telehealth, the American Telemedicine Association is committed to ensuring that everyone has access to safe, affordable, and appropriate care when and where they need it, enabling the system to do more good for more people. The ATA represents a broad and inclusive member network of leading healthcare delivery systems, academic institutions, technology solution providers and payers, as well as partner organizations and alliances, working to advance industry adoption of telehealth, promote responsible policy, advocate for government and market normalization, and provide education and resources to help integrate virtual care into emerging value-based delivery models. @americantelemed #telehealthishealth

About the American Psychiatric Association
The American Psychiatric Association, founded in 1844, is the oldest medical association in the country. The APA is also the largest psychiatric association in the world with more than 37,400 physician members specializing in the diagnosis, treatment, prevention and research of mental illnesses. APA’s vision is to ensure access to quality psychiatric diagnosis and treatment. For more information, please visit www.psychiatry.org.

Gina Cella
Cella Communications