Addiction services expanded for Alaska

Efforts of the Walker administration to expand treatment options for those with opioid addictions have paid off in federal approval of a waiver from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to allow for those treatments.

The 1115 Alaska Behavioral Health Demonstration Waiver will allow the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services to provide more community-based services, medication assisted treatment care coordination, early screening and intervention and more treatment beds.

“My administration has worked tirelessly to expand treatment options for Alaskans struggling with addiction,” said Gov. Bill Walker. Word of the waiver approval on Nov. 21 “will ensure Alaskans have access to treatment sooner and closer to home.”

Alaska is the 18th state to receive federal approval for the waiver, which allows the state to waive some federal Medicaid rules and provide treatment services more suitable for addicts.

Under the 1115 waiver, more outpatient treatment options will be available.

Medication assisted treatment care coordination is a new service to connect primary health care with behavioral health treatment, legal and social services, and other components to improve long-term treatment outcomes.

Early screening and intervention are to be implemented in emergency rooms to identify those with early signs of addiction and begin intervention sooner.

While current residential treatment facilities with over 16 beds cannot bill Medicaid, CMS has waived this rule for Alaska, making some 66 additional treatment beds available to recipients of Medicaid in Alaska.

The CMS waiver, authorized under Section 1915 (c ) of the Social Security Act, allows states to provide different services that allow people needing care to receive services in their communities, including long-term services.

Substance use disorder services are only one component of Alaska’s 1115 Behavioral Health Waiver Demonstration Project DHSS officials will continue to work with CMS to get approval for the remainder of the state’s 1115 waiver application, the governor’s office said.