KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

full issue

On Heels Of Opioid Crisis, Officials See Early Warning Signs That Meth Will Be Next Epidemic

Officials say a methamphetamine crisis could reach even further than the current opioid epidemic. In related news, senators introduce a bill to modify rules about Medicaid money and substance abuse treatment centers, Aetna is sending letters to dentists and oral surgeons who are "superprescribers," and more out of the states.

Stateline: A New Meth Surge Gathers Momentum
The opioid epidemic has killed tens of thousands over the last two years and driven major reforms in state and local law enforcement and public health policies for people with addiction. But another deadly but popular drug, methamphetamine, also has been surging in many parts of the country. And federal officials say that, based on what they learned as opioids swept the U.S., methamphetamine is likely to spread even further. (Vestal, 5/18)

Modern Healthcare: New Senate Bill Aims To Boost Medicaid Addiction Treatment Access 
A bipartisan group of senators on Wednesday introduced a bill that would allow more substance abuse treatment center to receive Medicaid payments. The legislation would enable treatment facilities with up to 40 beds to be reimbursed by Medicaid for 60 consecutive days of inpatient services. If passed, the bill would modify the Medicaid Institutions for Mental Disease law, which currently only allows Medicaid coverage for facilities with less than 16 beds. (Castellucci, 5/18)

Modern Healthcare: Aetna Targets Dentist 'Superprescribers' In Latest Opioid Initiative 
After a root canal or wisdom tooth removal, it's not unusual for a patient to walk away from the dentist's chair with a prescription for Vicodin or Percocet, even though ibuprofen would easily relieve the pain. Dentists are among the highest prescribers of highly-addictive prescription opioids—a driving factor in the worsening opioid epidemic. National health insurer Aetna hopes to keep these opioids out of medicine cabinets and off the street by encouraging dentists and oral maxillofacial surgeons that prescribe abnormally large amounts of opioids to change their behavior. (Livingston, 5/18)

The Philadelphia Inquirer: Aging, Addiction Advocates Worried About Consolidation Plan
Advocates for the elderly and for drug and alcohol programs on Thursday raised alarms that the voices of their constituents will be lost in Gov. Wolf’s proposed consolidation of the state departments of health, human services, aging, and drug and alcohol programs — especially as the state grapples with what experts call the worst addiction epidemic ever. Speaking at a joint Pennsylvania Senate hearing in Northeast Philadelphia, Michael Harle, chief executive of Gaudenzia Inc., a nonprofit addiction-treatment provider, described a decades-long process, starting in the early 1970s, to get a state department devoted to drug and alcohol addiction with a direct line to the governor. (Brubaker, 5/18)

New Hampshire Public Radio: With No Oversight, How Sober Is 'Sober Living' In New Hampshire? 
When recovering from an opioid addiction, one important step is finding safe, drug-free housing.There are a lot of places in New Hampshire that call themselves 'sober living.' But with no state oversight there’s no real way to check how sober these houses actually are...With the demand for this type of housing so high, places like this have been running under the radar – some maybe not for the right reasons. If you do the math, with an average rent of $150 a week and 12 people in a house, that comes out to $7,200 a month or more than  $86,000 a year. So the profit is definitely there. (Sutherland, 5/18)

Health News Florida: State Officials Begin Divvying Up Federal Opioid Grant Funding 
State officials will use the federal dollars to fund six new positions working with child protective services, drugs to counteract overdoses and prevention outreach programs. Nearly $4 million will go the Florida Alcohol and Drug Abuse Association to purchase a drug called Vivitrol that helps people in recovery stay clean by blocking the effects of opioids. (5/18)

Arizona Republic: AG: Tucson Podiatrist Pleads Guilty To Forging Prescriptions For Painkillers
A Tucson podiatrist has pleaded guilty to forging narcotics prescriptions for painkillers that he was addicted to, the Arizona Attorney General's Office said. In June 2016, Dr. Loren Wessel made a purchase of more than 5,000 oxycodone tablets, officials said. Shortly after, the veterinary-supply company that issued Wessel the drugs contacted the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration in Phoenix. (Destin, 5/18)

This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.