U.S. Rep. Mike Turner (R-Dayton) spoke with the Fayette County Commissioners on Monday about the heroin epidemic impacting local communities, as well as legislation that if approved could help combat the growing crisis.
Turner, who represents the 10th Congressional District of Ohio (Fayette, Greene and Montgomery counties), has introduced The Reforming and Expanding Access to Treatment (TREAT) Act. This legislation is designed to increase flexibility in how existing federal funding can be used to combat the heroin epidemic. Turner explained the legislation during his visit to the county commissioners’ office on Monday afternoon.
“The heroin epidemic continues to grow in communities across the country and the TREAT Act will help those who need it most,” said Turner, who added that the Buckeye State Sheriffs Association and the Ohio High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) recently came out in support of the TREAT Act. “The support from both the Buckeye State Sheriffs Association and Ohio HIDTA underline the importance of the policies that would be enacted through the TREAT Act. Ohio’s law enforcement professionals are on the front lines battling the heroin epidemic, and I appreciate their support for this common sense legislation.”
Currently, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) prohibits the use of grants from its Center for Substance Abuse Treatment (CSAT) for substance abuse treatment services provided to individuals who are incarcerated. Under the TREAT Act, Turner said these resources will be made available to individuals in both community-based and individual settings.
“There is a prohibition in federal law that people who are incarcerated cannot utilize drug treatment under programs that they’re eligible for,” said Turner. “So what we’re trying to do is make those dollars accessible so that communities can try to treat those people who are addicted to heroin and become incarcerated. Because if we don’t get them when they’re in jail, they’re most likely going to go out and commit a crime again and return to drug use. While they’re in custody, if we can begin a drug program, there is a much better likelihood of success.”
Under Medicaid’s Institution for Mental Disease (IMD) exclusion, facilities with more than 16 beds are not eligible for reimbursement. As such, the IMD exclusion prevents reimbursement for substance abuse treatment provided to incarcerated individuals who are otherwise eligible for and enrolled in Medicaid. Under the TREAT Act, substance abuse treatment provided in correctional institutions would become eligible for reimbursement.
The Fayette County Commissioners – Tony Anderson, Jack DeWeese and Dan Dean – acknowledged to Turner that recidivism has been an issue once heroin addicts are released from incarceration. “Basically, the detox occurs when they are in jail,” said Dean. “Then what we see are more overdoses as soon as they get out of jail.”
A local committee of citizens called “Faith and Recovery” formed in September 2014 to try to find ways to combat the heroin epidemic. The commissioners, who are part of the committee, have discussed opening a treatment facility for men who are addicted to heroin.
“We have a women’s facility, so we’ve been trying to figure out how to put in place an in-patient men’s treatment facility,” said Dean. “If we get it built, there is a way to pay for it now because men were included in the Medicaid expansion. So we are trying to figure out where to locate a facility.”
If all goes well, the commissioners said they hope to have this facility in place by the end of this year or beginning of next year.
Turner commended the commissioners and the community on their efforts to take on the epidemic. The commissioners also were supportive of Turner’s legislation proposal.
“As we’ve seen, there are people dying, children being born addicted to heroin, and people’s lives and families are being ruined,” Turner said. “There are two components to this….there’s prevention and there’s treatment. Once someone has unfortunately fallen to heroin addiction, we need to help them get out of that cycle. I commend the commissioners and Fayette County for your efforts.”
Reach Ryan Carter at 740-313-0352 or on Twitter @rywica