If you’ve seen the news recently, you may have seen that President Trump declared the opiod epidemic a “public health emergency.”  Whether you have an opinion about politics or not, declaring an “emergency” means that a few things happen.  As many drug addicts are caught up in the heart of the opiod addiction crisis, this directly affects them.  So here is summary of what this actually means for drug addicts, especially opiate users, such as pain pill and heroin addicts.

This declaration will last for 90 days, and every 90 days it can be renewed.

Sometimes you hear that Governors and Presidents declare a “state of emergency” or “disaster area” after things like tornados and floods. Those “states of emergency” last for a short amount of time, because usually the emergency event is over in a few hours or a few weeks.  After the event, money and resources flow and we start to repair the damage . With the opiod addiction issue, the problem won’t be gone a few hours or even a few weeks. Even when we start to combat the problem, the damage will keep happening for a while. Therefore, the President will have the option every three months to extend the “state of emergency.”

States will have more funding for “telemedicine” (probably through Medicaid)

Telemedicine is a way of “seeing” a doctor or health care professional through teleconferencing.  In other words, doctors and patients talk to each other on Skype or FaceTime or other video chat. It’s an important tool for rural areas that don’t have as many doctors as major cities. This way a doctor can treat patients that live hours away, and nobody has to drive far to do so. It’s an easy and inexpensive way to bring new doctors and patients together. So if you live in a rural area, keep on the look out for chances to see doctors that you might not have been able to see before. Many insurances cover these doctor “visits” just like any other appointment.

More hospitals can get paid by Medicaid for detox

Back in 1965, in order to prevent people from building ‘mega-hospitals’ to treat addicts, Congress passed a law.  Basically, this law said Medicaid payments could only go to places with 16 or less substance abuse beds (spots). Politicians hoped this would encourage more small hospitals to open in more communities. Despite their good intentions, there just aren’t enough places to go for detox that take Medicaid, and that law doesn’t help the problem. Some people end up on wait lists, and some people die while on those wait lists.  Now this law is waived, and this rule won’t apply anymore.  A hospital of any size can take Medicaid patients for detox. Furthermore, hospitals with only 16 beds will be able to set aside more beds for addicts with Medicaid. That doesn’t mean they all will, but it will help.

Getting detox would just be the first step for many addicts.  The hospitals that provide Medicaid paid detox will have other programs available.  In order to take Medicaid payments for inpatient detox, a hospital must offer “inpatient treatment to patients who need it…. all available addiction medications, intensive outpatient therapy, recovery support services such as job training and housing, substance abuse prevention programs, case management and physical health services.”

Funds for other programs will be shifted to substance abuse program

At this time, the government hasn’t offered any extra money to combat substance abuse.  Any funding that does get spent on opiod abuse will come from the budget of other health programs, such as the HIV/AIDS program.  While it’s true that the opiod epidemic is currently more dire than the HIV situation, many people don’t want to see other important causes lose their funds.  Either way, the emergency declaration loosens up the rules about which health issues money has to go toward.  This will help a little bit, but there is hope that Congress will approve a large amount of emergency funding (some suggest $45 billion) very soon.

Overall

Overall, for people in active addiction and in recovery from opiate use, not much is going to change immediately.  Recently a “commission” (group of politicians) looked into the opiod crisis and made a bunch of recommendations.  But those are only suggestions for now.  They suggest things like more money for Narcan and more access to Suboxone and Vivitrol (the naltrexone shot).  They also think there should be more chances for people to do drug court instead of going to jail.  In the future, these suggestions may become something more, but for now, they have no funding.  Without any funds, there are only very small changes that will happen with the declaration of a “Public Health Emergency.”

Still, there should start to be more chances to teleconference with doctors, especially for people in rural areas. Also, more people will be able to have inpatient detox paid for by Medicaid. This will happen in both small hospitals that were full before, and large hospitals that couldn’t take Medicaid for detox. Finally, no matter what, our leaders and the people in general are starting to realize the seriousness of the opiate situation. if you are living in active addiction or in recovery, you already know how bad it is. Other people are starting to understand too. With the new report from the commission, we should also start to see other changes.  Hopefully with this start, more lives will be saved and improved.

You don’t have to wait!

For now, if you want help, please call us!  If you have insurance, we can help you find the best and least expensive place for your insurance plan.  If you don’t have insurance, we can help you see if you qualify for a free scholarship to treatment.  And if you have Medicaid, keep an eye for more places to use your benefits.  Please contact us if you need help finding somewhere to go!

References

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. “Telemedicine.” https://www.medicaid.gov/medicaid/benefits/telemed/index.html

Goodnough, Abby and Hoffman, Jan.  “Panel Recommends Opiod Solutions but Puts No Price Tag on Them,” http://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/01/health/opioids-trump-commission.html

Merica, Dan.  “What Trump’s opiod announcement means — and doesn’t mean.” October 26, 2017, http://www.cnn.com/2017/10/26/politics/national-health-emergency-national-disaster/index.html

Wagner, John et al.  Trump declares opioid crisis a public health emergency; critics say plan falls short.” October 26, 2017, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/trump-declares-opioid-crisis-a-public-health-emergency-critics-say-plan-falls-short/2017/10/26/8883762e-ba60-11e7-be94-fabb0f1e9ffb_story.html?utm_term=.a93d0f5c497a

Schallhorn, Kaitlyn.  “Trump declares opiod epidemic public health emergency – here’s what that means.” November 2, 2017.  http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2017/11/02/trump-declares-opioid-epidemic-public-health-emergency-here-s-what-that-means.html

US Department of Health and Human Services Press Office.  “HHS Acting Secretary Declares Public Health Emergency to Address National Opiod Crisis.” http://www.hhs.gov/about/news/2017/10/26/hhs-acting-secretary-declares-public-health-emergency-address-national-opioid-crisis.html

Vestal, Christine.  “This obscure Medicaid waiver opens up more beds for opiod treatment.” April 5, 2017, http://www.pbs.org/newshour/health/obscure-medicaid-waiver-opens-beds-opioid-treatment