Update on Upcoming Legislation to Solve the Opioid Crisis in NH

Submitted by Marie Mulroy

As lawmakers prepare for the 2016 Legislative Session -- two of the biggest issues that they are going to be facing will be:  (1) extending the New Hampshire Health Protection Plan (Medicaid Expansion) beyond December 2016; and (2) the myriad of legislation that will be needed to resolve the opioid crisis in New Hampshire.   To get the necessary bills ready to deal with the complex problem of addiction, a special Joint Legislative Task Force convened by Governor Hassan has worked over the last several weeks to determine what pieces of legislation are needed and in what order they will be heard in 2016.   On December 15th recommendations will go before the full task and any items that the task force votes to expedite will have a joint public hearing in early January. While those that may require a more thorough examination will go through the normal legislative process and be appointed to be heard in Committee.  For a complete list of the legislation from the Task Force, click here.  

As the issue of Medicaid Expansion and the issue of Substance Abuse move forward, what is becoming obvious to many is that by passing Medicaid Expansion they will be putting into place one of the greatest tools to address the Heroin and Opioid crisis.  Since Medicaid expansion includes substance use disorders and behavioral health in its ten essential benefits, Medicaid Expansion represents a significant source of new funding for treatment.  Unlike traditional Medicaid, the expansion program covers a variety of substance abuse treatment and recovery programs. With more than 400 drug deaths and approximately 7000 emergency room visits in New Hampshire last year, without Medicaid Expansion the burden will fall to the hospitals and providers as uncompensated care and the ability to solve this public health crisis will be compromised.   In addition, providers and services are on hold waiting to see signs of some stability in the reimbursement stream before they commit to building more capacity for these much needed services.

According to a recent factsheet published by New Futures “Of the 42,000 people currently enrolled in the New Hampshire Health Protection Program – 7,560 are estimated to meet the clinical criteria for Substance Use Disorders – 5,880 of these individuals will likely access treatment services.   While addiction touches individuals across incomes, adults living between 0-133% of the federal poverty level are particularly sensitive to the opioid epidemic experiencing addiction rates upwards of 19.4%.   Statewide approximately 10% of New Hampshire’s adults (nearly 106,000) have a Substance Use Disorder.”  To read more, click here.    These facts make passing Medicaid Expansion even more imperative.

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