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Montana’s substance abuse problems

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE | March 21, 2017

 

MHCF Contact: Melinda Buchheit | (406)451-7060, melinda.buchheit@mthcf.org

DPHHS Contact: Jon Ebelt | (406)444-0936, jebelt@mt.gov

Manatt Contact: Deborah Bachrach | (212)790-4594, dbachrach@manatt.com

  

New report charts practical steps to tackle Montana’s substance abuse problems

                               

Helena, Mont. – Montana can take practical and cost-effective steps to address its growing substance abuse crisis, according to a new report released today by the Montana Healthcare Foundation and the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services, and authored by national experts at Manatt Health. The report finds that Montana’s current treatment system is severely under capacity as it struggles to address high rates of alcohol and drug abuse. Montana’s 2015 expansion of Medicaid creates an important opportunity to strengthen the state’s substance use disorder (SUD) prevention and treatment system; a federal rollback of the Medicaid expansion could put many of these opportunities at risk.

“Hospitals and public health departments around Montana tell us that substance abuse is one of the most serious health problems facing their communities,” said Montana Healthcare Foundation CEO Dr. Aaron Wernham. “The toll in terms of human lives, economic costs, and the drain on our healthcare, child welfare, and criminal justice systems is simply too high: we can’t wait any longer to tackle this problem.”   

In looking at the state’s SUD crisis, researchers learned that: 

  • The number of children in foster care related to parental SUD in Montana has doubled since 2010. Only six percent of state-approved facilities report any programming for pregnant women. 
  • Drug overdoses account for nearly 250 deaths and 2,500 emergency room and inpatient admissions each year. 
  • Only 32 state approved facilities provide inpatient and outpatient SUD treatment, along with a small number of community health centers and tribally-run programs.
  • Only seven percent of Montanans with a SUD are receiving treatment, and 4,000 adults are actively seeking care without success.
  • Only 43 percent of state approved facilities report any services for people with co-occurring SUD and mental illness.

“There are practical, cost-effective solutions that we can begin working on right away,” said Mary Dalton, Medicaid and Health Services Branch Manager at DPHHS. “We are committed to doing all we can on this issue, and this report will be our starting point.” 

The report provides an extensive list of options for DPHHS, many of which can be implemented at little cost or even in ways that generate cost savings for the state. For example:

  • Integrating SUD treatment into primary care practices: Research now shows that SUD is best managed as a chronic illness (like diabetes, for example). DPHHS could facilitate expanded treatment capacity by implementing a reimbursement structure that facilitates routine screening for SUD and supports integrating SUD counseling into primary care practices. 
  • Supporting greater use of medication-assisted treatment (MAT) for opioid and alcohol use disorders: The report found that Montana has among the nation’s lowest usage of MAT, a cost-effective approach that can be used in primary care as well as specialized treatment centers.
  • Utilization management to ensure the appropriate level of care: The state could improve treatment outcomes and ensure that people are getting the appropriate level of care by revising its utilization management system. This would also ensure that Medicaid is using its resources in the wisest possible manner to serve the greatest number of people.
  • Using savings from the Medicaid expansion to strengthen prevention and offer peer supports: Montana’s HELP Act extended Medicaid eligibility to many low-income adults, giving many people with SUD access to insurance for the first time. The state currently pays for most SUD treatment out of general fund and grant dollars: with the Medicaid expansion, the state can now bring in $9 in federal funds for every $1 spent on SUD treatment. With the savings in state dollars, Montana could invest in cost effective prevention and peer support programs.
  • Targeting outreach and enrollment to justice-involved populations: Specific attention to treatment in this population could reduce criminal justice costs related to arrests and recidivism.

DPHHS and MHCF will work with stakeholders throughout Montana to identify immediate opportunities and next steps to address the problem.

About the Montana Healthcare Foundation

The Montana Healthcare Foundation (MHCF) makes strategic investments to improve the health and wellbeing of all Montanans. MHCF focuses on behavioral health (including mental illness and substance use disorders), American Indian health, public health and strengthening the rural health system through focusing on new partnerships and value-based care. The foundation supports improving access to quality and affordable health services, evidence-based health education, research and analysis, improving the upstream influences on health and illnesses and informed public policy. Created in 2013, MHCF has approximately $135 million in assets, making it Montana’s largest nonprofit health foundation, and is designed to be permanent resource for the state. To learn more about MHCF, please visit www.mthcf.org

About DPHHS

The Department of Public Health and Human Services (DPHHS) strives to improve and protect the health, well-being, and self-reliance of all Montanans. Through various public health programs, DPHHS monitors and responds to disease outbreaks, works with businesses to ensure food safety, assures clean indoor air and safe drinking water, and provides community programs to support healthy living. Agency human service programs help children, families, seniors and people with disabilities. These programs ensure families in need have adequate food and health coverage, keep children and adults are safe, and help heat and weatherize homes.

About Manatt Health

Manatt Health, a division of Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, LLP, is an integrated, multidisciplinary legal, regulatory, advocacy and strategic business advisory healthcare practice. Manatt Health’s experience spans the major issues re-inventing healthcare, including payment and delivery system transformation; Medicaid coverage, redesign and innovation; health IT strategy; health reform implementation; healthcare mergers and acquisitions; regulatory compliance; privacy and security; corporate governance and restructuring; pharmaceutical market access, coverage and reimbursement; and game-changing litigation shaping emerging law. With 90 professionals dedicated to healthcare—including attorneys, consultants, analysts and policy advisors—Manatt Health has offices on both coasts and projects in more than 30 states. For more information, visit https://www.manatt.com/Health.