Maryland takes new steps to combat opioid crisis

WASHINGTON — Maryland Medicaid now has a more rigorous authorization process required for prescription opioids and they are encouraging providers to consider non-opioids as a first-line treatment for chronic pain. They have also expanded reimbursement for substance abuse programs.

These new tactics to combat the opioid crisis took effect July 1st, 2017.

“The implementation of these two initiatives help us reach providers and participants by reducing the number of opioids prescribed and ensuring the vital treatment is available to those already grappling with an opioid use disorder,” Secretary Dennis R. Schrader said in a news release.

Former heroin addict turned drug abuse expert Mike Gimbel says the changes by Maryland Medicare are good ones.

“It’s a good thing to increase reimbursements because if we don’t have more drug treatment, we are going nowhere with this problem, it is only going to get worse.”

“These are baby steps in a problem that needs bigger steps,” Gimbel said.

Gimbel says opioids are so addictive, a patient using them for pain can become addicted in 30 days. He says when the prescription runs out, those patients often turn to heroin to feed their addiction.

He says doctors need to help safely wean patients off opioids.

“The problem with physicians who are overprescribing pain medications is they often leave their patients addicted to painkillers, and they don’t help them get off. Many people need pain killers, there is no question about it. But once they get hooked and get addicted there is a responsibility by the physicians to help them get off, and that is where we have missed the boat.”

This article was written by WTOP’s news partners at Maryland Matters and republished with permission. Sign up for Maryland Matters’ free email subscription today.

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