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Delaware's Public Health Director calls for sustained, predictable federal support for opioid crisis

Delaware Department of Public Health
Delaware Public Health Director Dr. Karyl Rattay adressing Congress

Delaware’s Public Health Director discussed the First State’s opioid crisis on Capitol Hill Thursday.

Dr. Karyl Rattay addressed the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Reform during a roundtable on the Trump administration’s response to the crisis. She spoke on behalf of The Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO).

In her testimony, Rattay said state and local health departments require “sustained, predictable” funding from the federal government to treat the growing number of people with substance abuse disorder.

She recounted the damage Delaware has suffered with the nation’s 5th highest overdose rate and 400 overdose deaths in 2018. She also spoke of statewide efforts like the START program, meant to increase access to addiction treatment through peer mentorship in Delaware’s emergency rooms.

Rattay then called on Congress to change a three-day rule that only allows physicians to administer, not prescribe, one dose of buprenorphine at a time to overdose patients while they wait to be admitted for addiction treatment.

“The [ASTHO] is deeply concerned that the requirements of the three-day rule are preventing providers from appropriately managing withdrawal, and we are missing opportunities to successfully engage people into treatment,” said Rattay.

She also fielded questions pertaining to Medicaid expansion. Rattay says expanding the program in Delaware has helped to combat the opioid crisis.

“Allowing those additional state dollars to be able to—whether it’s expand capacity, or support wraparound services as well as paying for peer recovery coaches,” she said.

Rattay also noted Delaware’s efforts to expand its addiction treatment capacity over the last few years, but she points out about 6,000 Delawareans still remain untreated for their opioid addiction.