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Industry calls for renewed advocacy under Trump administration

November 09, 2016

With the news that Donald Trump clinched the presidency, industry observers are voicing their thoughts on the new administration. Many believe the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is in jeopardy and question what will happen to the 20 million people who have gained coverage under the law. ACA has also enhanced coverage for behavioral health conditions by making them one of the mandated benefit categories.

While Hillary Clinton had pledged comprehensive mental health and addiction policies, Trump’s campaign generally centered around securing borders to stop the stream of heroin and other substances from coming into the country. He also discussed limiting production of Schedule II drugs, increasing naloxone use and incentivizing drug courts.

What they’re saying

Industry leaders are reacting to the election result today.

Ed Jones, PhD, senior vice president of strategic planning for the Institute for Health and Productivity Management, and a Behavioral Healthcare editorial advisor, is concerned about renewed battles related to ACA and the provisions that are already implemented in the market.

“Those of us who represent behavioral healthcare–one of 10 essential health benefits in the law—need to become engaged in preserving this coverage and providing access to care for millions of Americans,” Jones says.

David Chernof, MSW, LCSW, MBA, vice president of addiction services for Great Circle, who is also a Behavioral Healthcare editorial advisor, says he is deeply concerned about maintaining essential behavioral health benefits as well as the real-world cost of shifting gears in the event of an ACA repeal.

”Without this mandate behavioral healthcare providers will have ‘wasted’ untold millions of dollars meeting the requirements of ‘Obamacare,’” he says. “Not to mention the millions of people who will no longer be covered by the ACA.”

Doug Tieman, president and CEO, Caron Treatment Centers, and also a Behavioral Healthcare editorial advisor, says he wants Trump to keep addiction front and center in America.

 “As leaders in the addiction and behavioral healthcare industry, we experience firsthand the significant challenges individuals and families face every day,” says Tieman. “We have come a long way since the counter-productive focus on the ‘War on Drugs,’ but we still have substantial work ahead. We must rally together to press for real solutions for families grappling with mental health and addiction issues that will create lasting and meaningful change.”  

Chernof also cautions that leaders in behavioral health and the communities they serve must work with the new Republican administration to arrive at solutions.

“The problem is, I think we were making good progress as a country, and this election cycle has simply widened the divide between two groups of people who have strong beliefs,” Chernof says.

Deni Carise, PhD, chief clinical officer for Recovery Centers of America, tells Behavioral Healthcare that the election’s outcome brings uncertainty as to how the addiction crisis will be viewed and treated in the United States. She also says she supports Trump’s plan on limiting the production of Schedule II opioid painkillers and increasing the availability of naloxone.

“Naloxone saves lives and should be easily accessible, but it is important to remember that this medication treats the overdose, not the addiction,” she says. “We must simultaneously increase the availability of quality treatment programs. Without treatment, individuals who were saved by naloxone will likely return to drug use. Let’s all keep in mind, these are our sons, daughters, loved ones, colleagues, neighbors and friends, and the next time they overdose, there’s no guarantee someone will be there to administer that lifesaving dose of naloxone.”

Association reaction

Linda Rosenberg, president and CEO of the National Council for Behavioral Health, and Behavioral Healthcare advisor, says the association looks forward to working with Trump, his transition team and his administration in the future.

"The National Council’s commitment to accessible, effective addictions and mental healthcare services remains constant, and we will work with the Trump administration to ensure access to quality care for people with addictions and mental illnesses and in supporting the people in their lives who love them," she says.

Marvin Ventrell, executive director of the National Association of Addiction Treatment Providers, released a statement calling for Trump to create a comprehensive plan to address addiction and also is encouraging him “to appoint individuals who understand SUD and are committed to the enforcement of the bi-partisan Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act as well as the White House Parity Task Force recommendations to fully implement the law.”

Mark Covall, president and CEO of the National Association of Psychiatric Health Systems, said in a statement: “With lives at stake, this is an opportunity for our leaders—both Republicans and Democrats—to come together to take meaningful action on mental health and substance use policies. We look forward to working with all members of the new Administration and Congress to ensure that every American has access to and coverage for life-threatening and life-disrupting mental and substance use disorders.”

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