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Medicaid Expansion: More Help for Ohioans Battling Addiction

PHOTO: Medicaid expansion would extend addiction treatment services to more Ohioans. Photo: man with an alcohol bottle. Courtesy:womenshealth.gov.
PHOTO: Medicaid expansion would extend addiction treatment services to more Ohioans. Photo: man with an alcohol bottle. Courtesy:womenshealth.gov.
September 30, 2013

COLUMBUS, Ohio - Many Ohioans cannot get the help they need as they battle addiction, but that could change if lawmakers agree to Medicaid expansion. Under Gov. John Kasich's plan, Medicaid benefits would extend to Ohioans with incomes up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level.

Director of the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services Tracy Plouck said this would allow many individuals struggling with addiction to have access to clinical services that today may not be available to them through local safety nets.

"That might include detoxification, counseling, assessments or examining the proper drug regimen for individuals or medication assisted treatment if someone is struggling with an opiate addiction," Plouck said.

Medicaid expansion would have approximately $75 million worth of benefits to their system alone, Plouck added.

The governor wants to take advantage of the federal aid the state would get to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, but legislators, some concerned about future costs, have not approved the proposal. In the meantime, expansion supporters have started a petition drive to get the matter on the November 2014 ballot.

Ohio has 53 boards that are the statutory local planning authority for mental health and addiction services, and they currently use local levy dollars and state and local subsidies to fund clinical services. Plouck said Medicaid expansion would help them add the services needed to help those in recovery rebuild their lives.

"If the governor's plan goes through, boards then could redirect their existing dollars away from the clinical service needs and focus on things like housing and prevention partnerships and employment supports," she explained.

Nearly 1 million people in Ohio need help overcoming addiction, and Plouck said treatment is crucial.

"Clearly, the addiction to drugs or to alcohol has the very quick ability to take over your ability to function as a responsible member of society," she said.

In the past year, more than 6 percent of Ohioans age 12 and older needed but did not receive treatment for alcohol abuse, and 2 percent of those 12 and older needed but did not receive treatment for illicit drug use, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health Model-Based Estimates.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - OH