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Increased demand will follow increased access to addiction services

June 6, 2014
by Julie Miller
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Orman Hall

In Ohio—one of the most populated states in the country—the prevalence of opioid addiction and abuse might be turning a corner, according to Orman Hall, director of the Ohio governor’s  Opiate Action Team, who spoke at the groundbreaking for the Gelbman House in Youngstown, Ohio yesterday. As more individuals gain access to healthcare coverage through Affordable Care Act provisions, they are more likely to seek treatment for their substance abuse issues.

“We’re seeing significant demand, especially around the issue of opiate and heroin addiction,” Hall says. “The Affordable Care Act is really important, but the other piece is Medicaid expansion.”

Ohio joins 25 other states that have expanded Medicaid to include new populations that typically have not been eligible for Medicaid before, such as adults who do not have children.

Hall believes the federal and state policies together will allow a greater percentage of those with addiction disorders to access healthcare services and will also allow indigent individuals to seek treatment. However, having Medicaid or affordable commercial insurance coverage does not guarantee clients will necessarily be able to receive treatment.

“One of the problems we’re going to see for the next several years is workforce issues,” Hall says. “Historically addiction services have been underfunded, and as a result, we don’t have as many professionals as we need to deal with the demand we’re going to experience for the services that we can provide.”

The vast majority of communities in Ohio aren’t able to initiate treatment at the point of contact, but there are new facilities opening across the state to increase the reach of service providers. Clinics that use medication-assisted therapy for substance abuse in addition to other types of behavioral therapy are moving people into recovery effectively, he says.

Ohio also has two pilot projects underway: a best-practices program delivered through several hospitals to promote neonatal abstinence to reduce the number of babies born with opioid dependence; and a prototype drug court in six counties. The drug courts allow certain offenders to voluntarily follow a treatment program and  appear in court regularly to report on their progress rather than go to jail. Failure to comply results in graduated sanctions, such as community service, ultimately leading to jail time for repeated failures to comply.