Tag Archives: addiction treatment

AMA Approves Policy to Remove Barriers to Opioid Treatment

Delegates attending the recent American Medical Association (AMA) annual meeting approved a number of policies, including doing away with barriers to medication assisted therapy (MAT).

The delegates approved policies that will allow the AMA to do the following:

• Push for the end to administrative barriers to MAT. These include prior authorization that is responsible for delays and denials of care to patients.

• Push for the enforcement of substance abuse and mental health parity laws.

• Support laws to ensure that patients have access to all FDA-approved medications and therapies in all drug treatment clinics and facilities.

• Call for a public awareness campaign to share the information MAT is a first-line treatment for opioid use disorder.

• Coordinate efforts with interested organizations to decide best practices to treat opioid abuse disorder in the manner of a chronic disease.

• Support states in evaluating programs that have received funding from government sources to assist hospitals, medical practitioners and communities in order to coordinate care for patients living with opioid use disorder.

• Work for expansion and increased access to treatment for substance abuse during pregnancy.

• Make sure that practicing physicians, residents and medical students receive education on prescribing opioids.

Doctors Can Help Fight Addiction Stigma

Dr. Patrice A. Harris, the AMA’s president-elect and chair of the AMA Opioid Task Force, stated that doctors have a role in fighting to end the stigma around drug abuse and MAT. She went on to say that this type of treatment “has been shown to decrease overdose mortality, reduce transmission of infectious disease, and reduce general health care expenditures.”

Universal Access to MAT Not Available

Access to buprenorphine is not universally available to patients, in spite of scientific evidence showing that it prevents deaths from opioid use disorder. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) also lists it as one of the medications that is commonly used to treat opioid addiction.

A study found that that fewer than one in three eligible doctors have been avoiding prescribing buprenorphine. Another study revealed that buprenorphine is underprescribed by family doctors. For every 40 family doctors who prescribed opioid pain medications, only one family physician prescribed buprenorphine-naloxone.

Jail Addiction Treatment Program Struggling From Medicaid Funding Lack

Polk County, Iowa’s addiction treatment program has decreased by more than three-quarters and is now struggling to survive. Leaders of the Bridges of Iowa program, which has been called an “innovative way to respond to drug-related crime,” is blaming a lack of Medicaid funding for its current woes.

Medicaid Covers Addiction Counseling for Offenders

Medicaid is the public health-care plan that covers low-income state residents. Inmates who are sentenced to jail for crimes linked to addiction, such as theft, are also covered under Medicaid. Organizers at the Bridges of Iowa program have said they been unable to collect more than a fraction of the amount they have billed the public health-care plan for counseling and other services for clients involved with the justice system.

Clinical Director Angie Rodberg stated that the Bridges of Iowa (Bridges) program, which at one point served up to 150 people, was reduced to only 23 clients by early February.

Funding Rehab Programs Can Present a Challenge

The Bridges program has been helping clients in a separate part of the jail from the one housing inmates since 2012. Most of the program’s participants enter the program once they are released from jail on probation; one of the conditions they are required to meet is that they comply with the Bridges treatment program.

Program organizers said their main financial difficulty is that the private companies in charge of running the state’s Medicaid program have not provided reliable payments for therapy sessions. The leaders, who have become frustrated by the situation, have basically given up trying to bill Medicaid for services. Dozens of employees have been laid off, and the program is now relying on private donations to provide a reduced level of support to help clients get their life back on track following an arrest for addiction-related crime.

System Has Become a Tragedy

Ms. Connolly mentioned the opioid epidemic has been discussed at length in the press, and that it’s an issue that politicians have been saying needs to be solved. She said, “We know there’s a crisis — the state recognizes that — but they’re not fulfilling their obligations.” She went on to say that the whole system has become a tragedy.