By Ilana Marcus
An experimental mental-health and addiction treatment program that has shown early success in combating the opioid crisis is at risk of losing its federal funding.
An estimated 9,000 patients could lose access to medication-assisted treatment, and 3,000 clinic jobs could be lost if the funding is not renewed, according to the National Council for Behavioral Health. Some states may feel the impact as early as January, because clinics must give staff 60 to 90 days’ termination notice.
Lawmakers in both parties have committed to boosting mental-health and addiction treatment to address the opioid epidemic, but new funding for the behavioral-health clinics initiative was not included in the $8.4 billion package Congress passed in October.
“There was a lot of concern in Congress about the overall cost of the package,” said Rebecca Farley David, vice president for policy and advocacy at the National Council for Behavioral Health. Advocates cited an estimate of $520 million to continue the initiative, a cost that bill sponsors and the Congressional Budget Office could not confirm.
David called the program’s exclusion from the package “a missed opportunity,” pointing out that it is already tested, established and implemented.
Matt Salo, executive director of the National Association of Medicaid Directors, said Medicaid’s move toward “value-based payments,” which reward providers with incentive payments according to the quality of care delivered, does not align with the clinics’ system, in which Medicaid reimburses providers fixed amounts for bundled services.