Advocates concerned about Alabama’s telemedicine law

Published: Jul. 20, 2022 at 8:30 PM CDT
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MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - Concerns have risen over regulations included in Alabama’s new telemedicine law. The recently enacted law requires patients to visit a doctor in person before being prescribed a controlled substance in a virtual setting.

The law was put in place to prevent telemedicine fraud, but one health company says this negatively impacts people with opioid use disorder.

Dr. Brian Clear with Bicycle Health says controlled substance treatment is the best way to treat opioid addiction.

“We know very well that telemedicine is an effective way to deliver that care,” said Clear.

He added that in-person treatment can be intimidating for a person with opioid use disorder and that only 40% of counties in the country have those licensed providers.

“Most counties don’t even have anyone, requiring long commutes to seek care,” said Clear.

This is why Bicycle Health launched Alabama Airdrop.

“The gratitude from the patients that we have come here to help them maintain their treatment has been really deep and profound,” said Dr. Amelia Burgess, a doctor with the program.

Burgess and other Bicycle Health doctors flew to Alabama to meet with patients in person, but they couldn’t reach everyone and have stopped taking new patients in Alabama.

“In an ideal world, this law would look like one that does not impose an arbitrary restriction on using medications that work through telemedicine,” said Clear.

However, there are other treatment opportunities for people with opioid use disorder.

Mark Litvine is a founder and marketing director of R.O.S.S Recovery Center, a substance abuse support center.

“Six months ago, we were getting 800 to 1,000 calls a month across the state of Alabama,” said Litvine. “That number has gone up tremendously.”

The center has locations around the state and offers help for people with all substance use disorders.

“If someone dies, they don’t have a chance of going on to find recovery,” said Litvine. “And we’re trying to keep people alive.”

Litvine also says the center plans to implement a new medication-assisted recovery program at the end of next month.

If you or someone you know has a substance use disorder, they can call the R.O.S.S Recovery Center’s 24/7 hotline at 844-307-1760.

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