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39 Attorney Generals Call on Congress to Change Federal Law to Make Drug Treatment More Affordable and Accessible

Today, Attorney General Peter F. Kilmartin, with a bipartisan coalition of 39 Attorneys General and the National Association of Attorneys General, called on Congress to pass legislation that changes federal law to make treatment for drug addiction more affordable and accessible for Americans who most need it.

HR 2938 is the "Road to Recovery" Act. The coalition of Attorneys General sent a letter to the U.S. House of Representatives, describing the national epidemic of heroin and opioid abuse and overdose deaths, and stating: " [W]e cannot arrest our way out of this problem, because it is not just a public safety challenge it is a public health challenge as well."

"A recent study reveals that drug overdoses claimed as many as 65,000 American lives in 2016, a 24 percent increase from the year before. In Rhode Island last year more than 336 died as the result of a drug overdose," said Attorney General Kilmartin. "The 'Road to Recovery' Act will help those struggling with addiction gain access to treatment, and eliminate a decades-old Medicaid rule that limits residential treatment options."

The "Road to Recovery" Act will help increase access to treatment for opioid addiction by removing a more than 50-year-old provision in the Medicaid program that currently acts as a barrier to residential addiction treatment.

The bill addresses the "Institutions for Mental Diseases" (IMD) exclusion which was created in the original 1965 Medicaid legislation to prevent the funding of large, residential mental health facilities. While the exclusion led to the closure of what were, in many cases, inhumane institutions, it now has the unintended effect of limiting Medicaid funding for residential treatment facilities, which can be one of the most effective ways to treat drug addiction.

The "Road to Recovery" Act will remove the exclusion for addiction treatment facilities only. This will help open new avenues for addiction treatment while maintaining appropriate restrictions on mental health facilities.

The change in the law is supported by health care providers, insurers, treatment centers, governors of both political parties and the President's Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis.

Attorney General Kilmartin has fought to expand insurance coverage in Rhode Island for those suffering from substance abuse. For the past two years, Attorney General Kilmartin has filed legislation that that provides greater access to residential substance abuse treatment. The legislation provides that health insurers may not deny continued residential or inpatient treatment coverage if the subscriber is currently in residential or inpatient services for a mental health and/or substance abuse disorder and the provider of treatment has recommended continued residential or inpatient treatment.

The legislation passed the House of Representatives in 2016, yet failed to pass the Senate. Neither the House nor Senate passed the legislation in 2017.

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