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    Heroin bill may give boost to providers treating substance abuse

    A law aimed at confronting the negative impact of heroin use on residents of Kentucky, should be on your radar screen, according to one industry expert.

    The goal of Senate Bill 192, which passed March 25, 2015, is to address Kentucky's heroin epidemic and provides funding for providers to serve patients suffering from addiction to heroin.

    “The focus of this bill is on persons who would likely fall under the service group of managed care providers,” according to Kent Runyon, executive director of Novus Detox, a Joint Commission Accredited inpatient medical detox facility in Tampa Bay, Florida.

    Key provisions of the new law include:

    • Harsher penalties for drug traffickers, with prison sentences of 10 to 20 years.

    • A “Good Samaritan” provision that shields individuals seeking medical help for an overdose victim from prosecution.

    • Increased availability of naloxone, a prescription drug that can reverse the effects of a heroin overdose.

    • Creation of needle exchange programs to reduce infections and communicable diseases.

    • Expanded access to treatment through $10 million in immediate funding, plus a subsequent $24 million annually.

    “There continues to be the paradox of perceived increases in funding and whether or not the reimbursement rates to providers will outweigh the cost of quality services and the cost of compliance with regulatory standards,” says Runyon, who has reviewed the legislation’s potential impact on heroin trafficking, overdose deaths and access to drug treatment programs. “There has been a shrinking supply of providers because the funding for service providers to low-income populations has not been sufficient to maintain a supply of quality providers in the market.”

    The needle sharing associated with intravenous drug use has also spread communicable diseases, according to Kentucky.com. Since 2007, Kentucky has experienced a 300% rise in hepatitis C infections, and intravenous drug users account for about 14% of the state’s HIV cases. In neighboring Indiana, a drug-fueled outbreak of 160 HIV cases in one small town has been compared to the infection rates in sub-Saharan Africa.

    Heroin abuse has reached epidemic proportions in Kentucky, where heroin overdoses killed 233 people in 2014—a 959% increase from just four years earlier, according to one report.

    It is important that lawmakers continue to be educated on the financial challenges faced by providers of managed care populations, according to Runyon.

    “The epidemic of heroin within our communities is beginning to reach our nation’s leaders,” he says. “Experts in the field must be there to guide and influence our leaders in making good use of our resources. Our leaders may finally be getting the message that incarceration is an expensive and ineffective way to address drug users. We are beginning to see some momentum to differentiate between drug traffickers and drug users in our laws and within our law enforcement community.”

    Runyon understands the barriers to treatment. “We appreciate the real cost of offering quality services that can make a difference in people’s lives,” he says. “We know what standards of care are important to have in place to insure that providers are held accountable for the funding they receive.

    “We need to have quality providers for every level of care,” he says. Runyon recommends community resources and education for persons active in addiction (needle exchange programs); inpatient medical detox; inpatient substance abuse treatment; outpatient substance abuse treatment; and sober living community support care.

     

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