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Public Health New Mexico

As Congress Mulls Opioid Legislation, Rural New Mexico Hopes For Help

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Buprenorphine tablets

Congress is considering legislation that will make it easier to treat people for opioid addiction. And doctors in Rio Arriba County—an area hard-hit by drug addiction—are hoping the new laws will provide relief to patients there.

Part of the legislation would let nurses and physician assistants prescribe buprenorphine, a drug that’s used to treat addiction to heroin or prescription opioid painkillers. Currently only certain doctors can prescribe it.

"It would be a huge difference," said Dr. Leslie Hayes, who treats pregnant women and new mothers at El Centro Family Health in Española.

Easing the rules on who can prescribe buprenorphine would give a lot more patients access to the drug, she says—especially in Rio Arriba county, where doctors are overwhelmed with patients who need it.

"It would probably within 2 or 3 years increase the number of prescribers by, I would say, at minimum 50 percent," Hayes said.

The legislation is part of a broad push by Congress and the Obama Administration to provide more tools in the fight against the opioid epidemic.

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