Massachusetts Medical Society: Testimony in Support of Legislation Before The Committee on Mental Health, Substance Use And Recovery

Testimony in Support of Legislation Before The Committee on Mental Health, Substance Use And Recovery

The Massachusetts Medical Society commends the legislature for several thoughtful proposals to increase access to evidence-based medication for opioid use disorder, both by increasing the capacity of prescribers of medications to treat opioid use disorder and by removing barriers to all types of medically necessary care.

The Medical Society therefore supports expansion of the coverage treatment mandate from 14 days to 28 days, as proposed in House bill 1732 and Senate bill 1150, An Act to Expand Access to Patient Centered Care for Opioid Use Disorder. The Medical Society believes that for patients for whom inpatient treatment has been deemed medically necessary, there should not be unnecessary prior authorizations that prohibit access to effective treatment. The expansion to include medically necessary transitional support services as a statutorily covered service is an important step forward in assuring proper treatment of substance use disorder in the Commonwealth. Lastly, any increase in coverage is only as effective as the access that a given insurance network provides. We therefore strongly support the provisions of these bills that prompt the DOI to conduct a network adequacy review of these services.

While the legislature has championed significant expansions in access to opioid use disorder treatment, many of these advances have been focused in certain portions of the continuum of addiction care such as detoxification and clinical stabilization services. Several remaining steps in clinical care, including many “step-down” services toward the end of a continuum, are still in need of significant attention. We therefore support House Bill 1749/Senate Bill 1155, An Act Establishing a Commission to Study the Availability of a Continuum of Care for Persons with Substance Use Disorder.

Lastly, even with increased capacity of and additional treatment facilities across the full continuum of care, the reality for many patients and families in crisis is that the complexity of the system prohibits timely utilization—even when there are physicians who are taking patients or facilities with appropriate beds available. We therefore support Senate Bill 1167, An Act Relative to Regional Navigators for Substance Abuse Treatment, which would establish regional navigators to assist individuals seeking treatment for drug or alcohol addiction.  Regional navigators can be effective in helping patients and families break through complex administrative and logistical barriers to access much needed services. 

The Massachusetts Medical Society hopes that these bills together could offer important steps forward in ensuring that all patients in Massachusetts with substance use disorder have timely access to the evidence-based care that they deserve.

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