Congressman Paul Tonko Visits SPARC to Discuss Opioid Addiction

U.S. Rep. Paul Tonko visited St. Peter’s Addiction Recovery Center in Cohoes last month to hear from providers and patients about their experiences with opioid addiction and its treatment.

U.S. Rep. Paul Tonko (left) and St. Peter’s Addiction Recovery Center providers Dr. Joshua D. Zamer and Dr. Susan Ferrary speak with a journalist about opioid addiction and its treatment.

U.S. Rep. Paul Tonko visited St. Peter’s Addiction Recovery Center (SPARC) in Cohoes last month to hear from providers and patients about their experiences with opioid addiction and its treatment.

SPARC providers Susan Ferrary, M.D., and Joshua D. Zamer, M.D., spoke with Tonko about their successes and challenges of treating patients with opioid use disorder. Tonko and the physicians also discussed new federal legislation he co-authored, the Opioid Use Disorder Treatment Expansion and Modernization Act (H.R. 4981), which seeks to expand opioid treatment capacity across the country.

Currently, under the Drug Abuse Treatment Act of 2000, providers are limited to treating up to 100 patients with buprenorphine, a medication-assisted treatment for opioid use disorder. Tonko’s proposed bill calls for certain providers to become authorized to treat up to 250 patients. The bill also calls for certain nurse practitioners and physicians assistants to treat up to 100 patients per year.

“There is definitely a huge need for raising the cap limit, so that we can get more people in and get their illness treated with our help,” Dr.  Zamer said. “Right now, the waiting lists are just way too long. This legislation would make a huge difference in communities.”

During his visit, Tonko spoke with patients and heard directly from them about the impact SPARC and addiction treatment has impacted their lives. Tonko called Dr. Ferrary, Dr. Zamer, and their colleagues in the recover community “heroes” for the work they do every day. He said their stories inspire him and will help inform his efforts as he pushes to get his proposed bill signed into law.

“Addiction is something that touches all of our lives at some point, whether personally or through family and friends, and it’s time to rethink our approach to providing assistance to those struggling through some of the most challenging times imaginable,” he said. “Bearing witness to the success stories of those who battle substance abuse – as well as their closest friends and family that stand alongside them in their fight – drives me to push for policies that will expand the opportunity to recover to everyone.”

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