Opioid emergency extended

Behavioral Healthcare Executive, 1/22/18

By Julie Miller

Just as the national public health emergency declared by the president in response to the opioid crisis was set to expire, federal leaders opted to extend it another 90 days. It will now expire April 23.

However, according to Andrew Kessler, principal of consulting firm Slingshot Solutions, there haven’t been any direct actions that came about as a result of the declaration thus far.

“The White House has not made a single supplemental appropriations request to address the opioid epidemic, even though there have been opportunities,” Kessler tells Behavioral Healthcare Executive. “The White House claimed that under the emergency, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) would act faster on 1115 Medicaid waivers, but the state of Illinois has been waiting for action on its waiver since October 2016.”

And many industry leaders agree that progress hasn’t been evident.

“The only impact that we would have seen from a provider perspective is CMS expediting the Medicaid 1115 waiver process to allow states such as New Jersey to offer a full continuum of care, including residential treatment, for Medicaid beneficiaries who were previously denied access because of the Medicaid IMD exclusion,” says Robert J. Budsock, president and CEO of Integrity House in New Jersey. “Nothing beyond this has been seen at a provider level.”

Seema Verma leads CMS, but the Department of Health and Human Services is awaiting confirmation of Alex Azar as its new secretary. Additionally, the Office of the National Drug Control Policy is operating without a director and is in danger of seeing its budget cut 95%.

In an email, Jessica Hulsey Nickel, president and CEO of the Addiction Policy Forum, says the extension of the emergency provides “critical time needed for each federal agency to act quickly to provide more resources for patients and families and remove bureaucratic red tape to provide treatment and recovery support immediately.”

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