Gov Holcomb has announced that Indiana Medicaid will now cover the medication assisted treatment Methadone.
This originally appeared at indystar.com
In an attempt to help more people with drug addictions, the state will begin covering methadone treatment for people on Medicaid and has added five centers to its stable of treatment providers, Indiana officials announced Wednesday.
Gov. Eric Holcomb welcomed the moves at a news conference Wednesday at Valle Vista Health System in Greenwood, one of the new sites, saying that addressing Indiana’s opioid problems is one of his top goals as governor.
“This is going to lead to lives being brought back,” he said, noting the number of drug overdose deaths has increased 500 percent in 17 years, and the numbers continue to rise.
“If I could only accomplish but one thing in my time, it would be to bend that trajectory, to bend that arc down on the course that we’re currently on.”
Indiana has not covered methadone, an early form of so-called medication-assisted treatment that aims to help people who use drugs wean from the habit. The decision not to do so likely stemmed from the perception that methadone use is trading one addiction for another, said Dr. Jennifer Walthall, secretary of the Family and Social Services Administration, which oversees Medicaid.
Indiana Medicaid covers two newer forms of medication-assisted treatment, Suboxone and Vivitrol. Because one drug may work better for an individual than another, Walthall said it made sense to extend coverage to methadone, the third federally approved drug to treat addiction.
“We have said over and over that we wanted all the tools in the toolbox,” she said.
After using drugs for 10 years, Amy Rardon started methadone treatment three years ago to help her conquer her addiction. The Irvington resident has private insurance through her husband, but it comes with a $5,000 deductible. She pays much of the cost of the $16-a-day medication out-of-pocket.
Rardon chose methadone, however, because it was the cheapest option.
On Wednesday, she appeared at the news conference, explaining how methadone has allowed her to return to normal life after an addiction that began with taking legal painkillers prescribed for a back injury.
Amy Rardon, who has been on methadone for three years, speaking at a press conference where FSSA officials announced the state will now cover the addiction treatment for Medicaid members. (Photo: Shari Rudavsky/Indystar)
“We just want to work and be part of the population. We just want to go and get our treatment and live our lives,” she said.
While some facilities exist to treat substance abuse for patients with private insurance, until now Indiana Medicaid members could only seek treatment at one of 13 opioid treatment programs certified by the federal government.
Each of the programs will provide outpatient treatment that combines medication assisted treatment with counseling to help patients achieve long-term recovery, Walthall said. The only limit on how many people could receive care rests in how many providers exists to serve them.
“There are an unlimited number of individuals that can be served at opioid treatment programs,” she said.
An estimated 50 to 90 percent of people with addiction also have mental health problems, Walthall said, making it critical “to promote treatment that takes into account both kinds of disorders.”
Many people in the state have had to drive long distances to find such services, so the state wanted to fill some gaps. The five new opioid treatment programs are in counties with the highest rates of use of naloxone, a drug that can reverse an overdose.
Johnson, Vigo, Tippecanoe, Monroe and Allen counties will now each have a site, and the Veterans Administration is adding a program, bringing the number of programs in the state to 19.
In Johnson County, Valle Vista has an intensive outpatient program, as well 132 beds for inpatient treatment. It will soon open an outpatient detox program. Sycamore Springs, a 48-bed hospital in Lafayette, will open two opioid treatment programs under the name Limestone Health in Lafayette and Bloomington.
Allen County’s Bowen Center for Human Services opened a medication-assisted treatment program about 18 months ago. Since then, it has treated about 300 people. In Vigo County, a behavioral health system, Hamilton Center, will operate the new program.
Walthall thinks some pockets of need still exist.
“We’re not done,” she said.
In 2016, more than 10,000 Medicaid members received treatment for substance use disorders, according to FSSA statistics.
FSSA does not know how much these measures will cost the state. The long-term cost could vary, depending on how many people seek treatment and on what happens with health reform at the federal level.
But not acting was not an option, state officials said.
“This is how we combat an opiate epidemic — by putting people first and embracing the integration of science, data and compassion as we make policy decisions that benefit Indiana,” Walthall said.