Idaho spends most of its emergency opioid grant on treatment

FILE - This Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2013 file photo shows pills of the painkiller hydrocodone at a pharmacy in Montpelier, Vt. Accidental overdoses aren't the only deadly risk from using powerful prescription painkillers _ the drugs may also contribute to heart-related deaths and other fatalities, according to research published Tuesday, June 14, 2016. "As bad as people think the problem of opioid use is, it's probably worse," said Wayne Ray, the lead author and a health policy professor at Vanderbilt University's medical school. (AP Photo/Toby Talbot)

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Idaho spent a majority of its share of federal emergency money intended to fight the nation’s opioid crisis on treatment, much like other states that have not expanded Medicaid, according to an Associated Press analysis.

Idaho was awarded $2 million under the 21st Century Cures Act grant program, with roughly $1.2 million of that amount going to treatment so far. Approximately $156,000 has gone to prevention, and nearly half a million to recovery services. Idaho spent a relatively small amount — roughly $30,000 — on administration.

The Associated Press obtained data using the Freedom of Information Act to examine how states spent the federal money. To a large extent, the differences depend on whether states participated in former President Barack Obama’s health care law.

In total, more than $479 million was allocated to 55 states and territories to spend over the first year of the grant.

AP’s analysis of the first year of spending of Cures Act grants — which ran from May 1, 2017, to April 20, 2018 — found that states that expanded Medicaid reported spending less of their allocations than states that didn’t expand the health insurance program to poor, childless adults.

That’s because in states that expanded Medicaid, the program already covers addiction treatment for nearly everyone who is poor and needs it. That coverage allowed the states with expanded Medicaid to be more strategic and creative in their grant spending.

Every state that did not expand Medicaid allocated at least 58.8 percent of their funding to treatment services. Idaho allocated more than 65 percent of its funding to treatment services.

“The best way to get treatment for folks, whether it’s for mental health or substance abuse disorders, is to get them access to a benefit, whether it’s through Medicaid expansion or something else,”” said Niki Forbing-Orr, spokeswoman for the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare.

Treatment cost nearly $2,500 per person served in Idaho, according to the data, with a total of 455 people receiving opioid abuse treatment so far and 414 receiving recovery services.

The federal funding has meant that people seeking treatment could generally get in with providers, whether or not they had other insurance coverage like Medicaid, Rosie Andueza, substance use disorder program manager with Idaho Health and Welfare, said earlier this year.

“So we’re offering medication-assisted treatment for opioid abuse, which is the gold star (method),” Andueza said. “It’s critical that they be connected with medication for their addiction — a lot of people with opioid use disorder really don’t want to use anymore, but they can’t stop because the withdrawals are so horrific.”

Idaho voters will decide in two weeks whether the state should expand Medicaid to roughly 62,000 people who earn too much to qualify for the program but who don’t earn enough to get health insurance subsidies on Idaho’s state insurance exchange.

Historically, Medicaid has covered more addiction treatment than all private insurance combined in the United States. Nationally, Medicaid covers 4 out of 10 adults under age 65 with opioid addiction.

In September, Idaho was awarded an additional federal grant worth $8.4 million to combat the opioid crisis, intended to increase access to medication-assisted treatment, reduce unmet treatment need and lower opioid overdose-related deaths. Roughly half of that money will go to 15 community health centers, academic institutions and rural organizations statewide.

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