Expanding access to addiction treatment

By Sen. Serrod Brown

For years, addiction treatment facilities all across Ohio have been limited by a decades-old policy that prevents them from getting reimbursement if they serve more than 16 people at once. That makes no sense – in the middle of a public health crisis, the last thing we ought to be doing is limiting the number of Ohioans who can get the treatment they need.

That’s about to change, because of legislation Senator Portman and I worked to pass that lifts this outdated restriction and will get more Ohioans into treatment beds.

The old rule was known as the Institutions for Mental Disease – or the IMD – exclusion, and banned states from using federal Medicaid dollars to pay for treatment at residential mental health or substance abuse facilities with more than 16 beds.

I’ve traveled around Ohio doing roundtables with local health departments and medical professionals and others working to fight addiction, and this rule was a top concern that I heard about over and over.

That’s why Senator Portman and I have worked for years to lift this outdated cap.

This fall, the House passed its own package of legislation to fight addiction. It included a limited fix that didn’t go nearly far enough, while the initial Senate package didn’t include a fix at all.

So as the Senate and House negotiated a final bill, Senator Portman and I went to work. We’re most effective when we work together, and we were able to build support and include a provision in the final bipartisan opioid package of legislation, modeled on our bill. It will lift the 16-bed cap for five years, for all substance-use disorders.

And while it isn’t the permanent fix we want, it’s an important step toward that goal. Instead of states creating their own piecemeal approaches, this will give certainty to providers across the country.

The final legislation passed both houses of Congress with broad, bipartisan support, and is now awaiting the president’s signature.

This success is an example of how we make real progress in fighting this addiction crisis. We listened to local communities and the experts on the ground, we worked together in a bipartisan way with Senator Portman to put their recommendations into action, and we got this fixed.


By Sen. Serrod Brown

Senator Sherrod Brown represents Ohio in the Senate and is a guest columnist.

Senator Sherrod Brown represents Ohio in the Senate and is a guest columnist.