Rep. Maxine Waters (CA-43), ranking member of the House Financial Services Committee, offered amendments to two bills, H.R. 5797 and H.R. 6, which are aimed at addressing the opioid epidemic. Waters’ amendments would expand access to Medicaid for the treatment of all substance abuse disorders – rather than only the treatment of opioid abuse — and would direct the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to develop a comprehensive and evidence-based plan for the treatment of all substance abuse disorders.
“For far too long, many communities throughout the United States have been devastated by substance abuse,” Waters said. “However, despite the widespread suffering that millions of people – particularly African Americans during the crack cocaine epidemic – endured and still endure today, our federal, state, and local governments, in many instances, have pursued punitive measures in lieu of compassionate, common-sense, and comprehensive substance abuse disorder treatment. As the U.S. Congress debates a number of proposals that are narrowly focused on addressing the opioid epidemic, I believe it is imperative that we examine and confront the full range of substance abuse disorders in this country – including alcohol, cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamines – in order to ensure that all communities can adequately heal from the impacts of addiction. I am proud to have offered three amendments that will conduct the research required for the development of a concrete, evidence-based plan to address all types of substance abuse disorders, and in the interim, will provide the resources needed to meet the health and rehabilitative care needs of individuals suffering from these devastating disorders.”
Waters’ first two amendments were made to H.R. 5797 – The Individuals in Medicaid Deserve Care that is Appropriate and Responsible in its Execution Act:
An Amendment to Treat All Substance Abuse Disorders: The amendment expands the option for states to use Medicaid funds for treatment in Institutions for Mental Disease (IMDs) to include treatment for all types of substance abuse disorders, rather than only treatment for opioid abuse disorders.
An Amendment to Promote Medicaid Expansion: The amendment requires states to expand Medicaid pursuant to the Affordable Care Act as a condition for using Medicaid funds to treat people with opioid abuse disorders in an IMD facility. Expanding access to Medicaid will benefit patients with substance abuse disorders, regardless of the type of addiction from which they suffer and ensure that treatment services are not limited to patients with opioid abuse disorders. It will also ensure that treatment options are not restricted to inpatient treatment in an IMD-style institution, but are also available in the form of outpatient services in the local community.
Waters’ third amendment was made to H.R. 6 – SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act:
Survey on Unmet Substance Abuse Treatment Needs: The amendment would direct the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to conduct a nationwide survey of the organizations, government agencies, and other entities that provide substance use disorder treatment services. Furthermore, based on the results of that survey, the amendment directs HHS to develop, and submit to Congress, a plan to direct appropriate resources to address the inadequacies in services or funding identified through the survey. This survey is intended to complement the existing efforts of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) to examine those services in order to develop a concrete plan to address unmet needs in treatment services nationwide.