Another view – Cheryl Wilkie: Four steps to respond to the opiate crisis

By CHERYL WILIKIE

April 15. 2018 10:00 PM

I am grateful that President Donald Trump visited New Hampshire to unveil his plan on how to resolve the opiate epidemic. It affects us all. Beyond the pipes, the national media and the standing ovations and promises made, my sincere hope is that the next steps will include a rapid and substantial inflow of specific resources to New Hampshire.

The president's promise that we would put an end to the scourge of drug addiction in America once and for all by being hard, intelligent, kind and loving resonated with me and my team. I hope it meets the help we need in Farnum and in the entire treatment community in the state. The President stressed the need to address the treatment, the prescription drug policy, the stricter application of the law and the improvement of deterrence efforts. We appreciate that you are directing this conversation.

This is not a partisan theme; It is not a political problem. This is a problem of humanity and it is important to act now. After listening to President Trump's message, I respectfully suggest four areas where more resources could have an immediate impact.

Treatment and training personnel: Many substance abuse providers can not pay the salaries of medical personnel that are essential for treatment. These men and women are essential, but they come with high staff costs.

And although there are jobs available, finding qualified counselors and treatment experts is a challenge. We need a program to accelerate and fund the training of treatment providers to meet the growing demand from the public. We need to see this as a plan to tackle addiction with an investment that thinks long-term.

Narcan: This life-saving medication reverses the effects of an overdose. It saves lives, but at $ 150 per dose, it's prohibitively expensive. We applaud that Narcan is available free of charge in schools and on college campuses, and we support the proposal to fund Narcan at the federal level for law enforcement. We should extend that approach to the first responders and treatment providers such as Farnum.

Increase Medicaid reimbursement: New Hampshire needs to protect this vital program and recognize that current reimbursement rates for substance abuse treatment are very low, they do not come close to covering the actual cost of treatment. Facilities like Farnum must find other sources of income because this current rate is unsustainable.

This is an important reason why so many treatment providers struggle to stay open. In January 2019, when all Medicaid clients are removed from the exchange and placed in the total Medicaid population, the treatment reimbursement rate will be $ 162.50. BDAS pays $ 140 per day. However, the cost of running a program is approximately $ 275 per day for housing and $ 425 per day for detoxification. The financial deficit is huge and unsustainable.

Increase financial aid for treatment: There is a constant struggle for those who need treatment but can not afford it, many do not qualify for state aid and do not have insurance. We should provide financial assistance to help fund treatment for men and women who would otherwise be rejected for lack of resources. Most treatment centers offer financial help, but there are limits. We need resources to fund the operations of all the treatment centers around New Hampshire and beyond.

Hope for New Hampshire is a perfect example of a facility that does a good job as it struggles to finance its operations. The state intervened, but we need sustainable financing.

Farnum is doing his part. In the last three years, Farnum has rapidly expanded its available beds, more than double the space for 140 beds. Our administrators have opened and expanded an installation in Franklin. Farnum Center has expanded the treatment with Suboxone, with more providers and more customer openings. Farnum has extended the hours to help families through the Intensive Outpatient Program at night. Our business model combines insurance coverage, state funds, private fundraising and collaboration. But costs are rising, demand is increasing and assistance from the state and federal government does not increase to meet this demand. We need help and we need it immediately. The treatment works, but it can not be unattainable for those who need it if we are really going to respond to this epidemic.

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Cheryl Wilkie is the director of operations for Farnum in Manchester and Franklin.

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