Working to Improve Addiction Treatment in Maryland

In a Washington Post opinion piece, Congressman Elijah Cummings, Department of Health and Mental Hygiene Secretary Van Mitchell, and Baltimore City Health Commissioner Dr. Leana Wen focus on the efforts to improve addiction treatment in Maryland. These efforts include a push to increase the use of addiction counseling.

Last week, the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene announced that it will implement a new payment policy for community-based medication-assisted treatment (MAT) – a clinical intervention that combines the use of medications and substance-use-disorder counseling. Our state’s current system funds an array of medications to treat opioid use disorders, including methadone, buprenorphine and naltrexone; however, the decades-old state payment policy does little to incentivize the critical second component of MAT: counseling.

We know that medication combined with counseling is more effective treatment than medication alone. As we have seen across the country, there is an increasing understanding of what we know from science and research: Addiction is a disease, treatment exists and recovery is possible. Through counseling, individuals learn critical skills to decrease stress and to help prevent relapse. In group counseling, patients are able to find encouragement and to connect with peers also in recovery. Federal regulations already recognize the importance of counseling and require opioid treatment programs to include counseling as a part of treatment unless the program enters into an agreement with another provider for this service.

If we cannot save a life today, there is no hope for recovery tomorrow. Only 11 percent of people nationwide who need addiction treatment receive it. As we work to combat the opioid epidemic, we are only treading water until we can ensure that everyone receives the treatment at the time when he or she needs it. The new reimbursement model for medication-assisted treatment is a step in the right direction.

Read the full op-ed in The Washington Post for more information.

Related coverage from Conduit Street, State Updates Medicaid to Encourage Addiction Counseling.