Expansion Of Medication Treatment For Inmates Likely

An expansion of medication assisted treatment in jails and prison is likely coming in New York state.

Legislation approved at the end of the state Legislature’s session will expand access to treatment of medications that treat substance abuse by making them covered by Medicaid available under the preferred drug program.

A.7246A/S. 5935 was approved 141-5 in the state Assembly on June 20 and 55-7 by the state Senate on June 12. Assemblyman Joe Giglio, R-Gowanda, voted in favor of the legislation June 17 when it appeared before the Assembly’s Rules Committee and again on the Assembly floor on June 20. Assemblyman Andrew Goodell, R-Jamestown, voted against the proposal.

The law stipulates that no prior authorization is needed for buprenorphine products, methadone or long-acting injectable naltrexone as part of a medication-assisted treatment program. Goodell’s opposition was based more on the fact that some of the drugs included in the program could have unintended consequences if there is no prior authorization requirement for their use.

“This would allow Medicaid patients to receive substance abuse treatment that includes drugs like Vivitrol,” Goodell said. “The problem is that some of the health care professionals have brought to our attention that Vivitrol can only be given to an individual after they’ve been completely detoxed from any of the other drugs or you can have a serious and severe reaction.”

Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal, D-Manhattan, said medication-assisted treatment is an evidence-based treatment method that uses FDA-approved medications to help an individual overcome a substance use disorder. Medications such as methadone, buprenorphine and naltrexone have all been used successfully, she said, with more treatment providers turning to medication-assisted treatment given its ability to reduce and block cravings, ease withdrawal symptoms and otherwise enable an individual to reach recovery more easily.

She said medications are not interchangeable and choices must be left to the doctor and patient to determine the best medication. Because Medicaid doesn’t cover all types of treatment, some opioid addicts can’t access all forms of treatment that may be available.

“This bill would allow individuals under Medicaid to access whichever MAT medication is most beneficial to them and their needs without mandated prior authorization so that they can try to get on the road to a productive life,” Rosenthal said on the floor of the Assembly.

Another piece of legislation that would establish a program to use medication-assisted treatment for inmates in all prisons and jails throughout the state passed the state Senate but did not make it out of the state Assembly.