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New Legislation Looks To Increase Treatment for Opiate Addiction

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A nationwide opiate epidemic has left area treatment centers with long patient waiting lists. ideastream's David C. Barnett reports that pair of local Congressional representatives are sponsoring a bill aimed at easing the backlog.

Friday, July 18, 2014 at 6:32 pm

The treatment of substance abuse largely takes place in community-based healthcare centers. Thomas Stuber, who heads Lorain County Alcohol & Drug Abuse Services says federal law limits the number of people you can treat.

THOMAS STUBER: If you are a community-based organization providing residential care, if you have more than 16 residents in your treatment program, you cannot bill Medicaid. The problem is that, at 16 beds, we've all got individuals on waiting lists.

The 16-bed limitation was put into place when Medicaid was created in 1965. At the time, it was believed that large state institutions were essentially warehousing heroin addicts, and the lawmakers didn't want to pay for that. But now, with the increase of people who need treatment, Stuber argues there would actually be cost savings in having any one facility to treat more patients. Congresswoman Marcia Fudge and fellow Democrat Tim Ryan aim to prove that economic benefit with their proposal to waive the 16-bed limit in ten states as part of a five-year demonstration program. Fudge says she realizes that it will be a challenge to get the proposal approved by her Republican colleagues --- due to a $300-million price tag.

MARCIA FUDGE: In all practicality, I don't think we'll get $300-million, but I think, initially, we can get someplace in the $50-60-million vicinity. As long as they don't think I'm trying to create another entitlement program, I think they'll be okay.

Fudge says the big push for her legislation will come next month.

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