New York Attorney General Letitia James is calling attention to a significant issue for both the state and the nation at large – access to addiction treatment. The Attorney General joined 37 other state attorneys general from around the country to call on Congress to remove federal barriers to addiction treatment.

The measures are primarily directed at the continuing opioid epidemic, and with the implementation of changes, there would be greater access for medication-assisted treatment (MAT). MAT combines medications and behavioral therapy and counseling for the treatment of opioid addiction and dependence.

Opioid Addiction Crisis in America

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in America from 1999 to 2017, more than 700,000 people died from a drug overdose. The majority of those were because of opioids. For example, 68% of all overdose deaths in 2017 involved the use of an opioid. From 1999 to 2017, nearly 400,000 people died from an overdose involving any opioid. Any opioid can include prescription medications and illicit opioids like heroin.

The CDC says there are three waves of the opioid crisis that have taken place since the 1990s. The first wave of the epidemic saw rises in the prescription of prescription opioids, along with an increase in overdose deaths involving these drugs. The second wave started in 2010, as there were significant and rapid increases in overdose deaths involving the use of heroin. 2013 saw the third wave, where there increases in deaths related to synthetic opioids such as fentanyl.

It is estimated that the misuse of opioids and heroin impacts more than two million Americans each year, and rates of opioid misuse and addiction are on the rise.

According to 2015 data from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), around 2.3 million people aged 12 and above received substance use treatment at a specialty facility; that was only 10.8% of the nearly 22 million people who reportedly needed substance use treatment.

Current Federal Barriers to Addiction Treatment

Opioid addiction treatment programs can help someone begin their recovery, but unfortunately, there are barriers to treatment. Some of the current barriers to opiate addiction treatment and other forms of addiction treatment cited by the New York Attorney Generals and others have included these challenges:

  • Doctors have to receive specific training and certification before they can prescribe certain medication-assisted treatment options. In many areas of the country, there are no if any qualified medical providers to prescribe these medications.
  • There is a Medicaid in law that prohibits the coverage of certain types of addiction treatment.
  • Currently, there are very strict rules about the release of medical records that involve addiction. They’re stricter than other patient record laws and guidelines because of the stigma of addiction.

NY Attorney General Proposes Removal of Treatment Barriers

James pointed out that her state has filed the most comprehensive lawsuit against makers and distributors of opioids. She says the state has also worked to take dealers off the streets, and now she wants to work toward helping people receive the inpatient addiction treatment or other addiction treatment services they need.

She and the other attorney generals are proposing certain things. One proposal was promoting more access to MAT by allowing doctors to be more open about the fact that they offer these services. They are also urging Congress to pass the Mainstreaming Addiction Treatment Act. That legislation would eliminate a waiver health care providers currently have to get to prescribe medications for the treatment of addiction. There aren’t barriers like that for any other medications.medicines.

The coalition is also asking for a repeal of the Medicaid Institutions for Mental Disease exclusion, which prevents Medicaid programs from getting federal reimbursement for adults who are 21 to 65 and are receiving substance use disorder treatment or mental health treatment in a residential treatment center that has more than 16 beds.

Improving Access to MAT and Other Addiction Treatment Programs

There are varying ways to improve access to different drug addiction treatment methods. First and foremost, reducing the stigma can be a good starting point, through different awareness and prevention programs. One barrier to people receiving drug addiction treatment is their fear of the stigma. Addiction, including opioids, is a medical disorder that is treatable with comprehensive services.

There are also opportunities for improvements in health insurance and medical systems in the U.S. as a whole. Increasingly, options are being explored so that there is more drug addiction treatment for the uninsured and more free drug addiction treatment centers as well.

Another way to improve access to MAT is to reduce the credentialing requirements for doctors to administer these treatments and make it easier for more health care providers to be able to prescribe medicines for addiction and dependence.

Helping a Loved One Choose an Addiction Treatment Program

While there are many steps that can be taken by state and federal government entities, there are also things you can do at an individual level to help someone you love. Helping someone chose an addiction treatment program can encourage your loved one to seek treatment. When comparing opiate treatment centers or other treatment facilities, consider the following:

  • Does the treatment center offer medication-assisted treatment?
  • Is there a waiting list? Being able to get into treatment quickly can be a critical component for recovery.
  • Does the treatment center take insurance, and are there flexible financing or payment plans?
  • Are specialized medical programs available such as supervised detox or paint management assistance?
  • If it’s a residential program, how long is treatment?

If you would like to learn more about The Recovery Village’s effective treatment programs that are evidence-based, contact us today. We can help you learn more about the steps to getting addiction treatment and what to expect during the process.