Gov. Hogan Proposes $4million Drug Abuse Program, New Treatment Clinic Opens in Cecil County; Trump Health Plan Changes Could Limit Coverage

January 24, 2017

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan proposed an anti-drug initiative Tuesday 1/24/2017 that would boost spending by $4 million on treatment and monitoring programs, along with tougher laws aimed at drug traffickers and over-prescribing of opioids by physicians. At the same time, a new out-patient detox and treatment center held a ribbon-cutting ceremony in conjunction with Union Hospital in Elkton.

But looming over the state and local anti-drug abuse efforts are the uncertainties over the fate of the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) and its mandates to provide health insurance coverage for drug addiction treatment services, as the new President Donald Trump moves forward with his plan to repeal “Obamacare” and replace it with an as yet unknown alternative.

Some new drug treatment programs, such as the profit-making Recovery Centers of America facility in Earleville in southern Cecil County, included as a key part of their business plan the availability of drug treatment coverage under mandates of the Affordable Care Act for insurance companies. Without such assurances, the fiscal viability of some local treatment programs could be uncertain.

In addition, a key feature of the Affordable Care Act was its expansion of Medicaid to bring health coverage to a larger number of people, including those needing drug rehabilitation treatment such as hospital-affiliated programs like the new Union Hospital venture. A New York Times report on Monday indicated the Trump administration was considering turning the Medicaid program—currently jointly financed by the federal and state governments—into a scaled-back federal block grant—which could force states to limit services or pick up a much larger share of the costs of medical services for lower-income people.

Gov. Hogan and Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford, who chaired an anti-drug task force that began its fact-finding tour of the state in Cecil County, appeared on Tuesday at the Anne Arundel Medical Center with state and local health and drug program officials to outline the new state proposals, dubbed the “2017 Heroin and Opioid Prevention, Treatment and Enforcement Initiative.

Key features of the new state program include:

–A statewide opioid “operational and control center,” coordinating law enforcement and health agency information-gathering efforts on illegal drug distribution patterns and hotspots, to improve information sharing among police and health agencies. In Hogan bureaucratese, the program would “break down governmental silos and to aid in co-ordination of federal, state and local resosurces.”

No specific dollar figure was noted, and Hogan has made it an art form to claim credit for simply passing through federal grants from the Obama administration-to the state Governor’s Office of Crime Control, such as recent grants for hiring local “heroin co-ordinators” to track drug trafficking crimes by local law enforcement agencies, including $50,000 to the Cecil County Sheriff’s Department.

–Legislation to toughen criminal penalties against drug dealers whose sales result in the death of an addict, creating a new felony offense punishable by up to 30 years in prison. The bill is aimed at drug “kingpins.”

–A “Prescriber Limits Act” to limit physicians’ prescriptions for opioid pain-killer medications to just a 7-day supply, except in cases of cancer or terminal illness patients.

–An “Overdose Prevention Act” that focuses largely on bureaucratic task forces and local “fatality review teams”—which already exist in most counties—to review and asses drug overdose cases and make recommendations for improved prevention and treatment options that might have prevented overdose deaths.

–$4 million for drug treatment programs, although the announcement did not specify if federal funds were being counted in the tally.

Meanwhile, the Cecil County Council heard on Tuesday from Rod Kornrumpf, the Regional Executive Director for Behavioral Health for the newly-named Ashley Addiction Treatment program—formerly known as Father Martin’s Ashley, a nationally known alcohol and drug rehabilitation facility in Havre de Grace in Harford County. Ashley is now moving into outpatient drug rehab programs, apart from the organization’s 100-bed inpatient treatment facility on the other side of the Susquehanna River.

Ashley and Union Hospital in Elkton are partnering on a new out-patient detoxification, treatment and counseling facility and held a ribbon-cutting ceremony in Elkton on Tuesday afternoon, although the program has been in operation for over a month.

County Councilor Dan Schneckenburger (R-3) said he had heard concerns from first responders that the county’s expanded use of Narcan—a nasal mist medication that can reverse the effects of a potentially lethal drug overdose—was simply being used repeatedly by police and emergency medical services staff to revive the same drug addicts, who do not get subsequent treatment for the underlying addiction problem.

“It’s becoming like an Epi-pen,” he said, referring to the medication used to save the lives of people with severe allergies at risk of going into potentially fatal shock. Addicts are being revived multiple times, he said, but still not getting into treatment that could get them off illegal drugs for good.

“Narcan has been a life saver,” the Ashley executive said. But people need to be “ready” to accept the need for treatment to wean themselves off drugs, he added.

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