AG James urging Congress to remove federal barriers to treat opioid use disorder

Attorney General Letitia James, along with a coalition of 38 states, has sent a letter to Congress urging them to remove federal barriers that are currently preventing health care providers from offering treatment for opioid use disorder. In a letter sent to Congressional leadership, the bipartisan coalition calls for the passage of legislation to: eliminate burdensome requirements that prohibit doctors from prescribing treatment for opioid abuse disorder, replace outdated medical privacy rules, and repeal a rule that prevents Medicaid from covering some forms of treatment.

“Opioids are devastating communities across the country, and we have a duty to do all we can to protect Americans from this epidemic,” said James. “New York has filed the nation’s most extensive lawsuit against the makers and distributors of opioids, we’ve taken drug dealers off the streets, and now we are ensuring that impacted individuals can access the treatment they need. This crisis demands action from every angle and that is exactly what we are doing.”

Opioid use disorder is the physical and psychological reliance on opioids, and according to the Centers for Disease Control, it is estimated that more than 2 million Americans struggle with opioid use disorder. In 2018, more than 47,500 Americans died from opioid-related overdoses.

As one of the major points in the letter, the coalition is asking Congress to fully repeal the Medicaid Institutions for Mental Diseases exclusion. The IMD exclusion generally prohibits state Medicaid programs from receiving federal reimbursement for adults between 21 and 65 receiving mental health or substance use disorder treatment in a residential treatment facility with more than 16 beds.

NY State adopts new regulations to expand and improve crisis management services statewide

The New York State Office of Mental Health has just announced the adoption of regulatory amendments that will allow for an expansion of the state’s crisis response system while emphasizing person-centered recovery and rehabilitation in the community.  Updates and revisions to 14 NYCRR Part 589 create three Crisis Residential Programs categories: Residential Crisis Support, Intensive Crisis Residence and Children’s Crisis Residence. “Crisis residences give an individual the opportunity to deal with his or her crisis in a setting that values personal choice, informed decision-making, respect for patient rights and the opportunity to make connections with community supports and safety planning,” said New York State Office of Mental Health Commissioner Dr. Ann Sullivan. “OMH has been working extensively with county leadership statewide to develop the shared vision of a coordinated behavioral health crisis management system available to all New Yorkers, regardless of ability to pay. These regulatory amendments bring that vision closer to reality.” Crisis residential programs are part of an expanding community-based continuum of care. They are designed to provide voluntary, short-term interventions to individuals experiencing a behavioral health crisis. The goal is to address the cause of each crisis and help these individuals to return to their communities. 

“For people in crisis, safe, temporary housing can reduce stress while the underlying crisis condition is addressed, ultimately improving long-term health and wellness,” said New York State Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker. “Investments in social determinants of health, like housing programs, have a profound impact on people’s ability to stay connected with their health care services and can lead to significant reductions in hospitalizations and Medicaid expenditures.”

—Compiled by Cyril Josh Barker