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Medicaid Expansion Could be a Lifeline for Ohioans Struggling with Addiction

April 4, 2013

COLUMBUS, Ohio - Gov. Kasich's plan to expand Medicaid provides a rare opportunity to expand access to mental health and addiction treatment for thousands of Ohioans. State and local funds currently cover those services for uninsured people, and under Medicaid expansion, those dollars can be redirected toward prevention and recovery.

Addressing substance abuse is critical to the community, according to Wilmington Mayor Randy Riley. He said addiction is not a choice, but a medical problem that needs proper care.

"There are biological reasons that some people become addicted and some people do not," he said. "I know of people who have become addicted; my own son is addicted, and he's in prison right now. So, it happens to any family."

According to data reported by the Ohio Alliance of Recovery Providers, substance abuse treatment has been shown to cut alcohol and drug use in half and reduce crime by 80 percent and arrests by more than 60 percent. It is estimated that every $1 spent on addiction treatment saves $7 in criminal justice costs alone.

The executive director of Ohio Citizen Advocates for Chemical Dependency Prevention and Treatment, Donna Conley, said many people are not able to access needed treatments because they lack health insurance. The expansion of Medicaid is the lifeline they need to become responsible members of the community again, she said.

"When someone finds recovery from addiction, their life stabilizes, their family situation stabilizes, their overall health improves," she said. "They become productive, tax-paying citizens."

Riley said Medicaid expansion is the right thing to do to ensure that those with substance abuse problems have access to continued treatments. Addiction does not end overnight, he added.

"The conquering of the disease is an on-going problem," Riley said. "They will always be an addict. It does not go away just because you've been sober for six months or six years. You need ongoing therapy and treatment."

Expansion has received some opposition from those who oppose health care reform and others concerned about the federal government's long-term funding commitment. However, Kasich has said it is not fair to Ohio taxpayers to send federal money to another state to be spent.

The House will vote on the budget in mid-April, then it heads to the Ohio Senate. The governor must sign the budget by June 30.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - OH