In the wake of a growing addiction crisis locally and nationally, Sen. Chris Van Hollen visited a Linthicum addiction treatment center Friday to discuss possible solutions with those in the field.
As part of National Recovery Month, Van Hollen met with officials at Maryland House Detox, a first-of-its-kind addiction treatment center in Linthicum that detaches residential treatment from detoxification services.
For the Montgomery County Democrat, it was also an opportunity to tout efforts at the federal level to tackle the issue, with the bipartisan Opioid Crisis Response Act set for a vote as early as next week.
After learning about the center's unique setup — patients are treated with medical detoxification services without the typical intensive inpatient treatment seen at more traditional centers, meant to turnover patients in five to seven days instead of taking a month or more for treatment — the senator spoke briefly about federal efforts to tackle the issue.
He said he supports the Opioid Crisis Response Act, which would enact a number of measures including changes to Medicare and Medicaid in an attempt to allow for the programs to pay for more addiction treatment.
Van Hollen backs the legislation but added, "I support expanding resources beyond what's in the bill." He pointed to proposed legislation that would lift a 1965 policy that limits Medicaid coverage for substance abuse treatment to facilities with less than 16 beds, upping the limit to 40.
For officials at the center, it also served as an opportunity to share their industry-specific woes.
While the county has made strides in opening up more options for addiction treatment and making it more accessible, the addiction crisis shows no sign of slowing down. As of Monday, 134 people had died from opioid overdoses compared to 97 at the same time last year, according to police statistics.
David Stup, director of operations for Delphi Behavioral Health Group, which runs the center, said the state has done a good job at expanding treatment options, but now needs to focus on "improving outcomes."
He said one of the biggest issues with the industry is enforcement of the Mental Health Parity Act — legislation signed into law in 1996 that required insurers to match their limits on mental health benefits to be not lower than benefits for medical and surgical benefits.
Prior to the law, insurers were not required to cover mental health care.
A new report by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration found 8.5 million adults suffered from a substance abuse disorder and a mental illness in 2017, a little less than half of the 18.7 million adults who suffered a substance abuse disorder.
"The only way we can improve outcomes is if the Parity Act is enforced," he said.
He was joined by Dominic Sirianni, CEO of Delphi, who said the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services needs to do a better job at enforcing the act, as opposed to leaving it up to "politicized (attorneys general)" to bring litigation against insurers.
They also advocated for larger Medicaid reimbursement rates. That's something other treatment centers have said is not enough to adequately staff their centers to reach the level of treatment necessary to be eligible for the payments.
The state reimburses treatment centers $293 a day per bed for medically assisted treatment and $263 a day per bed for treatment without medication.
Maryland House Detox holds two beds for those eligible for Medicaid reimbursements, but also prioritizes those with private insurance to fill empty spots.
"If this were all public (funding through Medicaid) … we wouldn't be able to keep the doors open," Stup said.