39 Attorney Generals Call on Congress to Change Federal Law to Make Drug Treatment More Affordable and Accessible

October 2, 2017 | Topic: Opioids

“Road to Recovery” Act Will Make Drug Treatment Options More Available to Commonwealth Residents

HARRISBURG – Today, Attorney General Josh Shapiro, with a bipartisan coalition of 39 Attorneys General and the National Association of Attorneys General, called on Congress to pass legislation that changes federal law to make treatment for drug addiction more affordable and accessible for Americans who most need it.

HR 2938 is the “Road to Recovery” Act. Led by Pennsylvania Attorney General Shapiro and Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, the coalition of Attorneys General sent a letter to the U.S. House of Representatives, describing the national epidemic of heroin and opioid abuse and overdose deaths, and stating: “… [W]e cannot arrest our way out of this problem, because it is not just a public safety challenge – it is a public health challenge as well.”

“In Pennsylvania and states around the country, my colleague Attorneys General and I are doing our part in going after the drug dealers who are selling these poisons and fueling this epidemic,” said Attorney General Shapiro. “But law enforcement alone will not solve this problem. We need more treatment for people suffering from addiction, which is a disease. The Road to Recovery Act will create more treatment options, and this bipartisan coalition of Attorneys General strongly supports its passage in Congress.”

The “Road to Recovery” Act will help increase access to treatment for opioid addiction by removing a more than 50-year-old provision in the Medicaid program that currently acts as a barrier to residential addiction treatment.

The bill addresses the “Institutions for Mental Diseases” (IMD) exclusion which was created in the original 1965 Medicaid legislation to prevent the funding of large, residential mental health facilities. While the exclusion led to the closure of what were inhumane institutions in many cases, it now has the unintended effect of limiting Medicaid funding for residential treatment facilities, which can be one of the most effective ways to treat drug addiction.

The “Road to Recovery” Act will remove the exclusion for addiction treatment facilities only. This will help open new avenues for addiction treatment while maintaining appropriate restrictions on mental health facilities.

“More than 64,000 Americans died from drug overdoses in 2016, a 24 percent increase from the year before,” Attorney General Shapiro said. “In Pennsylvania last year, 4,642 people died from a drug overdose. The ‘Road to Recovery’ Act will help those struggling with addiction gain access to treatment, and eliminate a decades-old Medicaid rule that limits residential treatment options.”

The change in the law is supported by health care providers, insurers, treatment centers, governors of both parties and the President’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis.

To view a copy of today’s letter, please click here.

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