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Report: Substance Abuse Treatment Skyrockets with Medicaid Expansion

A new report shows Medicaid expansion in Kentucky has led to a huge spike in treatment of substance abuse, but the prescription opioid problem is still increasing. (Greg Stotelmyer)
A new report shows Medicaid expansion in Kentucky has led to a huge spike in treatment of substance abuse, but the prescription opioid problem is still increasing. (Greg Stotelmyer)
December 29, 2016

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – For the more than 400,000 Kentuckians covered by Medicaid expansion, treatment services for substance abuse have increased markedly, according to a new report.

The head of the health organization that commissioned the report says while that's good, the bad news is the state's heroin and prescription opioid problem continues to grow.

Ben Chandler, president of the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky, says he's pleased that Gov. Matt Bevin's plans for Medicaid reform retain drug treatment services.

"The governor's efforts on the waiver made it very clear that he wasn't going to skimp on the substance-abuse issue, I think because they understand full well just how bad our problem is here in Kentucky with the opioid situation," Chandler states.

According to the report, since 2014 drug treatment services for those covered by Medicaid expansion have gone up 740 percent.

According to the Kentucky Office of Drug Control Policy, in 2015 more than half of Kentucky's counties had overdose death rates of more than 20 people per 100,000. In 2000, just nine counties nationwide had overdose rates that high.

Chandler says treatment alone does not fix the state's massive drug problem.

"Treatment is a piece of the problem, just like law enforcement is a piece of the problem,” he points out. “Neither by themselves can fix the problem, but we're not going to be able to address the opioid problem without treatment."

The study compared quarterly numbers over a two-and-a-half year period to illustrate the rise of substance abuse services.

In the second quarter of this year, Kentuckians who obtained health coverage through Medicaid expansion received 11,000 treatment services compared to 1,500 in the first quarter of 2014.

Greg Stotelmyer , Public News Service - KY