Sen. Manchin introduces bill to help opioid overdose victims

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U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), along with a bicameral, bipartisan group of congressional members, introduced a bill aiming to improve Medicaid recipients’ access to opioid use disorder treatments.

Called the Improving Medicaid Programs’ Response to Overdose Victims and Enhancing (IMPROVE) Addiction Care Act, the bill would provide more assistance to Medicaid recipients who are struggling with opioid use disorder. The bill would require state Medicaid programs to jointly funded drug utilization review programs to boost safeguards for those on Medicaid who have had non-fatal, opioid-related overdoses, and increase access for treatment for Medicaid recipients.

“Every West Virginian has experienced the impacts of the opioid epidemic on our family, friends, and neighbors. Today I joined my bipartisan, bicameral colleagues in introducing the IMPROVE Addiction Care Act to strengthen Drug Utilization Review programs across the nation to prevent opioid overdoses by helping to better connect Medicaid patients to treatment options. Americans who have overdosed need our help getting back on their feet through treatment programs, and I urge my colleagues on both sides of the aisle and in both chambers to support this commonsense legislation,” Manchin said.

The legislation would ensure that doctors are informed if their Medicaid-enrolled patient suffers from a non-fatal overdose, or if it is a new patient, lets them know if the patient has suffered an overdose previously. The bill would also connect Medicaid patients who overdose with treatment opportunities and perform ongoing provider education.

Previously, Congress passed the SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act which informed Medicare Part D plan sponsors of individuals with a history of opioid-related overdoses.

A recent study found that one in 54 of Medicaid-enrolled adolescents who experienced an opioid overdose received medication-assisted treatment, and that less than one in three received any treatment whatsoever. Additionally, another study has found that Medicaid beneficiaries often continue to receive legal opioid prescriptions after suffering a nonfatal overdose.

In West Virginia, 91 percent of drug overdose deaths between 2001 and 2017 had a documented history of being prescribed a controlled substance. Between 36 and 49 percent of those who died had refilled their prescriptions within the past 30 days. A Boston University and Harvard Medical School study found that 91 percent of patients who had an opioid-related overdose between 2000 and 2012 received another opioid prescription with the year.

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