NYS Council Co-Authors Op-Ed on Opioid Funding
March 28, 2018
The NYS Council, with the Coalition for Behavioral Health, co-authored the following Op-Ed running in today’s Times Union which calls on lawmakers to address the critical need for a dedicated, permanent and significant funding stream in the budget to address the opioid crisis. Please share this Op-Ed through your networks and on your social media platforms! Continue to call members of the Assembly and the Senate telling them that the final budget must include a dedicated funding stream to develop additional prevention, recovery and treatment services and to support the BH workforce (use the script below):
MESSAGE FOR LAWMAKERS:
“I am calling today to ask that the final budget include a mechanism like the opioid surcharge to create a dedicated funding stream to support the expansion of life-saving substance use disorder prevention, treatment (including medically-assisted treatment) and recovery services across the state, and to support the prevention, treatment and recovery workforce. As the desperate need for access to services grows due to the opioid epidemic, the need for a significant influx of resources into the behavioral health system has never been greater. There cannot be a budget deal that fails to identify a revenue mechanism that will deliver permanent and dedicate funds to OASAS at the levels required to get out in front of this epidemic.”
By Lauri Cole and Christy Parque, Commentary
Many words have been used to characterize New York’s alarmingly high rates of opioid overdose — crisis, epidemic, health emergency. All of these terms are accurate, yet unable to fully convey the desperation felt by those affected.
For those living with an addiction, or those with a loved one impacted, no words can ease feelings of helplessness and loss. The only thing that matters in this crisis is action. Behavioral health service advocates believe the time for meaningful action to change the course of our most pressing public health emergency is now.
New York has made efforts to expand access to substance abuse prevention, treatment and recovery services, and while those efforts are appreciated, they have not been enough to turn the tide. Each year more lives are lost — in 2016, more than 3,800 New Yorkers died from an overdose or chronic drug use. These deaths are preventable, but only if our actions match our rhetoric.
When someone struggling with an addiction seeks help, they should be able to find it when and where they need it. Too many people are forced to search for treatment far from where they live, sometimes out of state — a serious deterrent to sustaining treatment engagement and recovery.
Data shows that over 60 percent of New Yorkers visiting the emergency room or hospitalized for an opioid-related issue are covered by Medicaid, making Medicaid a critical resource for accessing treatment.
Once again, though, actions do not match rhetoric as Medicaid is threatened by proposed federal cuts and dramatic changes to eligibility. Medication-assisted treatment is recognized as the gold standard in effective care for opioid addiction, yet it is difficult to access, and prescribers are held to arbitrary patient caps that aren’t imposed on other methods of care.
We cannot change the course of the opioid crisis without health care coverage, access to care and investments to expand behavioral health services.
New York’s legislature is working towards passage of the state budget, and while there is no shortage of discussion of the impact of opioids on our communities, the proposed opioid surcharge is the only proposal providing a permanent, stable and dedicated revenue stream to address the crisis. The opioid surcharge would create a fund dedicated to addressing the opioid crisis by placing a small charge (2 cents in the governor’s proposal, or 2.5 cents in the Assembly proposal) at the first point of sale per milligram of opioids sold in the state. The fund is expected to generate $127 million in revenue in the first year, revenue that would help develop critically needed additional behavioral health services statewide.
As we approach the April 1 deadline for budget passage, we implore lawmakers to take actions that match their stated concern about the opioid crisis. The opioid surcharge must be included in the final budget, with funds directed to the state Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services for new and additional prevention, treatment and recovery services across the state, including expanded access to medically assisted treatment. This is the way we will finally get ahead of the opioid crisis and begin saving lives, rather than losing them.
Lauri Cole is executive director of the New York State Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare. Christy Parque is president and chief executive officer of The Coalition for Behavioral Health.