The medication-assisted mental health and addiction programs were showing promising results, but are running out of time.
A federally funded experimental medication-assisted treatment program may be on its last legs, according to The Washington Post. The program, which has shown some promise in combating the opioid crisis in the year it’s been running, could dissolve as soon as March.
If the program disappears, up to 9,000 patients would suddenly find themselves without a program and around 3,000 clinic personnel would be out of their jobs, according to an analysis by the National Council for Behavioral Health (NCBH). Because the clinics have to give their workers a 60-to-90 day advance notice for termination, the clinics could see staff leaving to seek other jobs as soon as January.
Combating the opioid crisis has consistently been a bipartisan issue that both Democrats and Republicans have committed to working together on, but funding for the treatment programs was notably absent from Congress’ $8.4 billion budget that was passed in October. Speaking for the NCBH, Rebecca Farley David speculated that Congress got cold feet when they saw the projected cost of funding the treatment package: $520 million.
“There was a lot of concern in Congress about the overall cost of the package,” she said.
The program was conceptualized in 2014 through a set of standards, dubbed the Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics, and was set to receive two years of flexible funding. In its first year of service in 2017, the program served around 381,000 patients according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Now, the program is due to expire in Oklahoma and Oregon in March and Minnesota, Missouri, Nevada, and New York in May.
These states are trying to come up with alternate avenues for funding, including Medicaid waivers or applying for grants to keep paying staff after the federal funds dry up.
It’s not just the patients and clinic workers that would suffer if these programs end. Law enforcement and the justice system also benefited from the program. If officers pick up intoxicated suspects, they cannot rely on these programs and instead have to take the time to drive the prisoner to an emergency room. Inmates being released from Niagara County jail relied on these programs to automatically continue treatment.
“When people fail to make that first appointment upon release, we’ve lost them,” said Deputy Chief Daniel Engert. “Their condition deteriorates, they reoffend, and then they end up back in jail, or worse, they end up dead.”