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HHS secretary wants more states to seek Medicaid waivers to combat opioid crisis

Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar has shown his willingness to persuade more states to use the Medicaid program as a means to combat the opioid crisis. Speaking at a White House summit on opioids recently, Azar said he is pushing for a key recommendation of President Donald Trump’s opioid commission in a bid to help states thwart the epidemic. In fact, the Trump administration’s top health official wants to apprise everyone about this move and assure that states would receive every assistance in combating the opioid onslaught.

Officials from the Trump administration huddled for long hours in the East Room of the White House on March 1, 2018, discussing at length strategies to combat the opioid scourge that is maiming a large section of the country’s population. There was heavy criticism for Trump, who, despite declaring the opioid crisis a public health emergency, did very little to change the status quo. However, of late, things have been moving and there seems to be a lot of buzz in the administration.

Several positive developments have come out in the past few days aimed at battling the opioid menace in the country. Trump proposed an additional $13 million in the budget to expand addiction treatment. U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions also announced the formation of a new opioid task force a few days ago. Now, Azar’s announcement is a good move in the fight against drugs.

Azar urged state governors to seek Medicaid waivers so that more people with addiction can avail substance abuse treatment. “I actually berated the governors saying, ‘Why have I only gotten five of these so far?’ We are eager to work with them, we have a streamlined process for approving them, and I want more,” he said.

The opioid commission appointed by Trump under the leadership of former New Jersey governor Chris Christie wanted to remove the “IMD exclusion,” which is a federal law that calls for banning facilities with more than 16 beds from giving substance abuse treatment. Medical providers, governors, and treatment advocates wanted to obliterate this exclusion, something that was in place since Medicaid program came into existence 50 years ago. Experts believe that it could immensely increase treatment availability for patients needing addiction treatment.

The HHS secretary has taken this quite seriously. He wants to reverse it to whatever extent it is possible, providing states the freedom to expand treatment. He declared that five states, including West Virginia and Kentucky, have already received waivers. These two states have the highest rates of addiction. Azar wishes that more and more states apply for such waivers. It seems that the HHS chief is trying to fend off some of the criticisms the administration faced in the past few months, portraying the department as supporting research and upholding evidence-based practices.

Dealing with addiction

According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), in 2016, almost 12 million people aged 12 or older misused opioids in the past year. Statistics show that on average, 115 Americans succumb to an opioid overdose every day. However, opioid addiction can be treated with timely medical intervention. If a person is grappling with opioid use disorder (OUD), he/she should immediately seek professional help from a reputed drug addiction treatment provider. Remember that OUD can have life-threatening consequences, if left untreated.

Any addiction is a malady, which is detrimental to one’s progress in life. If you have a loved one grappling with an addiction and looking for one of the best residential drug treatment centers, get in touch with the 24/7 Recovery Helpline for an immediate assistance. Call our experts at (855) 441-4405 to know more about residential drug treatment programs for your loved one. You can also chat online with one of our executives for further information.

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