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August 5, 2017
Calif. treatment centers say many national opioid commissions' proposals already in works
By Joe Szydlowski
REDDING, Calif. — The President's Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and Opioid Crisis' draft recommendations are out and local treatment and health officials had similar reactions: Much of it is already in the works in California.
"I am surprised that many of the recommendations are actually being followed here in California," Marjeanne Stone, executive director of Empire Recovery Center, said in an e-mail after reading the 10-page document.
The first recommendation: Allow Medicaid — Medi-Cal in California — to start paying for residential treatment, which Stone said would be a massive improvement.
More: Special report: Opioid overdose deaths drop in Shasta County
According to the report, Social Security bans Medi-Cal from paying for any inpatient mental health treatment facilities with more than 16 beds. Commissioners recommend granting all 50 states waivers to rapidly increase available treatment beds.
But California was preparing those waivers to start paying for residential treatment for Medi-Cal members in 2018, Stone said. Her organization had been preparing for an influx to its residential program that rarely fills all of its 42 beds due to many potential patients being on Medi-Cal, she said.
"Right now we're full with a waiting list," — Steve Lucarelli, director of Visions of the Cross in Redding.
Visions of the Cross also has been preparing for California's expansion, though currently its residential program's 34 beds are for women only, said Steve Lucarelli, director of Visions of the Cross.
"Usually we stay about 75 percent full," he said. "Right now we're full with a waiting list."
Ten beds are set aside for pregnant women, whom Medi-Cal will pay for, he said. Visions is planning to add a residential program for men in 2018, he said.
Shasta County Public Health Officer Dr. Andrew Deckert said via e-mail that several other recommendations were already the law in California: It already requires that medical professionals who prescribe must participate in a prescription-tracking database.
Doctors also must include pain management in their ongoing training required to keep their license current.
"I have not seen a 'cookie-cutter' approach at all," — Marjeanne Stone, executive director of Empire Recovery Center in Redding.
Nonetheless, he praised other parts of the report, including its support of medication-assisted treatment, such as methadone for opioid addicts, proposal to increase cooperation among treatment professionals and doctors, and advocacy of requiring the Veterans Administration to participate in that prescription tracking database.
Empire's Stone also said that the commission's recommendation about more individualized care already is in place at her facility as is medication-assisted treatment.
"I have not seen a 'cookie-cutter' approach at all," she said. "We at Empire believe that MAT (medication-assisted treatment) is a tool that benefits some individuals' treatment. It is not for all. It must be considered very carefully and must include... treatment for success."
Visions also offers medication-assisted treatment and individualized plans for all its clients, Lucarelli said.
Nonetheless, any efforts to curb drug abuse must include proposals for prevention efforts and pharmaceutical companies, whose opioid pain killers were how about 80 percent of new heroin addicts got started, those who provide treatment say.