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Bill allows 16 and 17 Year Olds to be Treated for Opioid Addiction Without Prior Parental Consent

Haney’s AB 816 will allow physicians to provide buprenorphine treatment to youth over 16 years of age without first receiving parental consent

For immediate release:
  • Nate Allbee
  • (415) 756-0561

Sacramento - Today in response to the growing crisis of youth opioid deaths in California, Assemblymember Matt Haney (D-San Francisco) announced AB 816: the Medication Assisted Treatment for Youth Bill. Buprenorphine is a physician-supervised medication that reduces opioid withdrawal symptoms and has been recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics as a treatment for opioid addiction in youth. Current law in California restricts access to buprenorphine and requires physicians to receive parental consent before prescribing what is currently the only FDA approved treatment for minors. Unfortunately, many opioid addicted youth are not in contact with their parents, are experiencing homelessness, or are fleeing sexual and physical abuse in their homes of origin. AB 816 allows physicians to enroll youth over the age of 16 in buprenorphine treatment without prior parental consent.

Overdose deaths among minors have increased in California by nearly 300% in the last 2 years. Opioid overdoses now account for 1 out of every 5 deaths of minors in California. Enrolling opioid addicted youth in medically proven treatments, as early as possible, is one of the best tools physicians have to save the lives of these young people.

“Most young people will thankfully have support from their parents when seeking this treatment,” said Haney. “But some teenagers tragically will have no choice but to look for help on their own. Often because they're homeless, have parents who themselves are addicted or absent, or have legitimate fears that telling their parents will lead to violence or being kicked out of their home. Turning away these youth seeking recovery is reckless, wrong and potentially deadly.”

Buprenorphine is one of three medications currently used for medication assisted treatment for opioid addiction. However, buprenorphine is the safest and most effective due to its natural chemical ceiling that makes it difficult to abuse the drug and impossible to overdose on. The most common brand of buprenorphine, called Suboxone, includes the well known opioid antagonist naloxone (same as in Narcan) as an ingredient–this has the dual effect of treating withdrawal symptoms as well as blocking further opioid use.

AB 816 is sponsored by the American Academy of Pediatrics California Chapter. “The American Academy of Pediatrics, California is the proud sponsor of AB 816. When it comes to opioid addiction—opioid use disorder—we have this safe and effective medication, buprenorphine, approved for age 16 and up,” said Yasuko Fukuda, MD FAAP Chair, AAP California. “Pediatricians urge California policymakers to act now to ensure that no eligible teen is ever denied this potentially life-saving treatment.”

“We have to make it a lot harder to get fentanyl and a lot easier to get treatment,” said Haney. “16 and 17-year-olds who want to do the right thing and stop using drugs shouldn’t be held back from seeking treatment as long as they are safely under the supervision of a physician.”