HHS Issue Brief Examines Relationship Between Data-Waiver Provider Patient Capacity
The Office of Behavioral Health, Disability, and Aging Policy, within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation, published an issue brief examining how increases in patient capacity among buprenorphine waivered providers related to prescribing of buprenorphine and opioids at the county-level. Researchers found that, from 2016 to 2017, 48% of counties in the sample experienced an increase in buprenorphine patient capacity. In the same time period, counties on average experienced an 8% decrease in opioid prescribing and a 9.4% increase in buprenorphine prescribing. However, the study also found a significant difference in the relationship between patient capacity and opioid prescribing between metropolitan and non-metropolitan counties. As noted in the study, this implies that the marginal effect of buprenorphine waivered providers is much smaller in non-metropolitan counties where inadequate access to opioid use disorder (OUD) treatment is a significant problem and thus small increases in patient capacity among waivered providers might not necessarily translate into expanded access to treatment.