California’s opioid and heroin use disorder has become a major threat to public health, especially among the young. Drug overdose, mostly from opioids, is the leading cause of death among those under 50, with nearly 2,000 Californians dying from opioid overdoses in 2016 alone. However, California has a severe lack of certified providers to treat the condition.
That’s why I have authored Assembly Bill 319 along with Assemblymember Blanca Rubio (D – Baldwin Park), which will go a long way to encourage more providers and treatment options around our state, including underserved rural areas, by requiring the Department of Healthcare Services (DHCS) to establish statewide reimbursement rates and billing codes for use by licensed narcotic treatment programs that provide Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT).
MAT is an innovative treatment program that uses medications, such as buprenorphine/naloxone, methadone, buprenorphine, and naltrexone combined with counseling and behavioral therapies to treat substance use disorders. It has proven to be one of the most effective treatments, is supported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Institute on Drug Abuse and the World Health Organization. Patients who follow the prescribed regimen have positive outcomes, with death rates cut by more than half.
Forty California counties have received waivers from DHCS and have negotiated their own rates for MAT. Waivered counties may also use treatments that include the full range of medications, but the 18 non-waivered counties may only use methadone. California has needlessly created a hodgepodge of treatment availability and rates. AB 319 will standardize rates and improve treatment, including many rural areas which have been severely impacted by opioid abuse.
With only 2% of providers even certified to administer certain MAT, we need to be encouraging more treatment. By expanding the MAT program, AB 319 will save lives.