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CMS Pledges to Work with States to Address Opioid Crisis


On Nov. 1, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) announced that it would work with states on special waivers to section 1115 of the Social Security Act designed to improve access to and quality of treatment for Medicaid patients struggling with addiction. This is a boon to local communities that are struggling to stem the tide of the opioid epidemic.

These waivers allow states to test new methods to deliver and pay for health care services in Medicaid, provided they meet certain requirements. For detailed information on the 1115 waiver initiative, here.

Given the magnitude of the opioid epidemic in this country, and the increased focus by the White House to combat the crisis, CMS has strongly encouraged states to articulate in their application how their proposal will apply evidence-based programs to meet the needs of people struggling with addiction to opioids in their state.

It is heartening to see CMS and the administration take action to combat the national public health crisis that is the opioid epidemic. Many of the health systems in rural communities and other areas with scarce resources are overburdened by the scope of the crisis and are struggling to cope with demand for addiction treatment.

The American Psychiatric Association (APA) plans to do its part to address this epidemic in line with recommendations made in the president’s Opioid Commission’s final report. We remain steadfast in our position that greater action needs to be taken to ensure that parity laws for mental health and substance use disorders are enforced. APA also advocates for and is ready to support the government should it enact an awareness campaign to fight the stigma surrounding opioid addiction, much as it did during the height of the AIDS epidemic.

APA is also working with state and federal legislators to advocate for drug courts, which can provide life-saving treatment to incarcerated individuals with substance use disorders. One of the focal points of our advocacy here is ensuring continuity of treatment for incarcerated patients after their release.

Other measures, such as improved access to naloxone, increased funding for medical research into the causes of and prevention strategies for addiction, and greater support for collaborative care and telepsychiatry are key to our talks with state and federal lawmakers, community leaders on the front lines, as well as other stakeholders working to put a swift end to this crisis.

Our communities need any advantage they can get to give their patients with opioid dependence and other addictions the life-saving treatments they need. The assistance available to them now from CMS and the federal government will be welcome as we work to combat the opioid crisis. It will take the efforts of many disparate groups working toward a common goal of ending the opioid crisis for meaningful change to happen. The APA and its more than 37,000 members stand ready to help the administration to curb this epidemic.


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