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New Healthcare Bill Has Addiction Treatment Resources Hanging in the Balance

[fa icon="calendar'] Mar 24, 2017 8:33:48 AM / by RU Texas posted in Recovery, Addiction Treatment, Medicaid, Affordable Care Act

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Kraig Moss was one of the most ardent Trump supporters that one is likely to find. The upstate New York resident, former business owner and amateur country singer even sold his construction equipment company, stopped making mortgage payments on his house and hit the road to support the current president during the campaign. All tolled, Moss attended 45 Trump rallies, writing and performing songs to drum up support for the candidate and shaking his hand on multiple occasions. All support and trust dissolved; however, with the rollout of the republican majority’s plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act earlier this month.

Moss belongs to one of the tens of thousands of families that lost a child to heroin addiction in the wake of the recent epidemic. Three years ago, he found is son Rob dead of an overdose at the age of 24. In the pursuit of answers and activism to curb the opioid and heroin crisis that has consumed this country-an epidemic that officials now say is the worst substance abuse crisis in American history-he clung to President Trump’s apparent support of a compassionate treatment-first approach to overdose prevention, a philosophy that has not exactly been bared out in the most recent iteration of the new GOP healthcare bill.

Moss’ primary gripe with the new law is the potential cuts to treatment services that could save thousands of people who struggled just as his son did. Currently it calls for the reduction of the Medicaid expansions that make it possible for states to provide treatment under the ACA mandate. A total of 31 states took advantage of the expansions over the past few years and have been able to provide significantly more treatment resources to keep pace with the escalating drug problems within their borders. Opponents of the expansion says it oversteps government authority, drives up costs and decreases individual choice.

The ACA replacement bill is scheduled for a house vote literally any minute now; however, despite all the contentious back and forth already surrounding the law, this vote is still likely to be the easiest legislative hurdle in the process. By the time it passes the senate, it may look entirely different. In the meantime; however, the tug of war to preserve treatment access through Medicaid continues between both parties, leaving hundreds of thousands of Americans who are suffering from drug addiction, as well as their loved ones, waiting with bated breath.

 

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Northern Kentucky Officials Taking Addiction Prevention into their Own Hands

[fa icon="calendar'] Mar 21, 2017 12:12:20 PM / by RU Texas posted in Recovery, Drug Treatment, Addiction, Rehab, Kentucky

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Every so often, we’re reminded of the power of communities to mobilize and improve conditions for their citizens and outlying neighborhoods. Whether it’s an issue with drug trafficking, relations with law enforcement, environmental impact or anything else, real change starts at the grass-roots level with people who are directly affected by the problem that needs changing. Officials in Northern Kentucky-a region of the United States that has been hit particularly hard by the American opioid crisis-has demonstrated such a commitment to ground-level change with a bold new initiative that makes it harder for addicts to access prescription drugs for illicit use.

The Northern Kentucky Health Department has partnered with Mallinckrodt Pharmaceuticals and several local officials and businesses to launch a program that will provide free drug disposal pouches to ensure that medications are disposed of properly. The organization announced the collaboration in a statement in which they also said officials will announce details of the initiative Thursday at the Boone County Sheriff's Office in Burlington. The initiative makes permanent in the area, the same kind of one-day opioid-disposal events we’ve seen in Kentucky as well as the rest of the country, including Florida and Texas. Further details are expected to be forthcoming.

In addition to federal and state funding, law enforcement awareness, increased treatment options and other vital anti-overdoses resources, community involvement is key to preventing the further proliferation of localized drug trafficking and abuse. In 2015, the state of Kentucky saw nearly 1,250 overdose deaths, an increase of over 200 from the previous year. Local officials have cause to believe the problem is getting worse. Like most areas of the United States, the proliferation of fentanyl has spiked overall overdose rates in the region. Most recently, the city of Louisville recorded 52 overdoses in a 32-hour period, a trend which area hospitals and law enforcement say is likely to continue.

Kentucky’s proactive action reminds communities everywhere of their power to affect change and keep themselves and he people around them safe. A culture of drug trafficking seriously erodes quality of life in any community it touches, and the sooner we realize that, and work to prevent it, the better off we will be. While we can’t expect our friends and neighbors to solve the world’s addiction problems, we can start the process of incremental change by asking ourselves what we can do to curb addiction in our own corners of the world.

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Your Guide to A Happy, Safe and Sober Saint Patrick’s Day

[fa icon="calendar'] Mar 17, 2017 9:29:05 AM / by RU Texas posted in Recovery, Alcohol Treatment, Alcohol Addiction, Saint Patrick's Day

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Although Saint Patrick’s Day is holiday which celebrates Irish culture and spirituality, it has become an occasion that transcends cultural parameters, particularly here in the United States. For those in the recovery community, however, it can also be one of those days the reality of recover must be reinforced and they’re put face-to-face with the reality that world drinks even though they don’t. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, during the St. Patrick's Day weekend in 2013, more than a third (40%) of all crash fatalities involved drunk drivers. In 2013, there were 31 people killed in drunk-driving crashes on St. Patrick's Day.

How, then, do we insulate ourselves from prospect of relapse during one of the heaviest drinking days of the year? The truth is that only we can assess our readiness to be around alcohol during our recovery, but there are some stop-gap mechanisms to put a little more distance between us and a mistake that could derail our recovery. Be sure keep your sponsor on speed-dial, or at least someone close to you who understands your vulnerability to alcohol, and is in a position to help you. If you have to leave a party early and can’t access a ride home from someone you care about, there are a variety of car services at your disposal these days.

It may very well be that you’ll have to sit this St. Patrick’s Day out and just declare the best intentions for next year. Anyone who understands what you’re going through will undoubtedly want you to put your recovery first before one night of fun. The most important thing is keep your recovery intact. Recovery Unplugged wishes all of our alumni and their families a safe, happy and sober Saint Patrick’s Day. May nothing but happiness come through your door.

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Is It Time To Adopt A State-by-State Approach to Addiction Treatment?

[fa icon="calendar'] Mar 14, 2017 12:20:38 PM / by RU Texas posted in Recovery, Addiction Treatment, Rehab, AATA, Regulations

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Yesterday it was announced that the American Addiction Treatment Association launched new industry regulations for addiction care facilities in the state of Michigan. Michigan is the ninth state in which AATA membership resources are available to industry professionals, sober/transitional living facilities, and addiction treatment centers. AATA has previously launched regulatory compliance resources in California, Arizona, New York, Illinois, Tennessee, Georgia and RU’s home states of Florida and Texas. Membership will also soon become available in the coming months for Pennsylvania, Washington, Colorado, New Jersey, and Minnesota. One state that is left of the list is the beleaguered New Hampshire, which, while not yet under the AATA umbrella, got a special visit from New United States Attorney General Jeff Sessions to discuss the specialized nature of its drug epidemic.

Sessions spoke of the start of a national prevention movement during his surprise New Hampshire speech, but part of that may entail taking a special look at each state’s individual drug problem and allocating resources accordingly. The reality is that while virtually every state in the Union has been affected by the escalation of heroin and opioid fatality, some have felt the impact more than others, and others are battling their own separate epidemics. Texas, for example, continues to battle a significant methamphetamine problem, a drug that has long been contained in other regions of the country. The Lone Star State is also facing an issue of underreporting with regard to opioid overdose fatalities.

State-specific regulations could help to localize regional attention and maximize institutional resources. This is not to say that the addiction prevention battle should not be waged at the federal level; but if there were more state-specific guidelines and oversight by a single regulatory body, vulnerable residents might better understand their options and how to best take advantages of the resources available to them. While the opioid crisis is a national problem, each state should feel empowered to begin solving the problem within its borders; this includes streamlined and easily comprehensive guidelines, allocation of federal funding and state-specific prevention and education programs established and run by communities.

The fact is that some states need more help than others in battling addiction and overdose. Making sure they have the tools they need and formalizing treatment standards and practices to suit their specific addiction crises may be a good start to addressing the greatest national public health issue of our time. It will also help to ensure that patients are getting the best possible care, no matter the state in which they reside.

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Rebuilding: The Importance of Perseverance in Addiction Recovery

[fa icon="calendar'] Mar 10, 2017 1:02:16 PM / by RU Texas posted in Recovery, Addiction, Treatment, Rebuilding, Tornado

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Recovery Unplugged Texas was recently impacted by a tornado that left us temporarily unable to fully provide the unmatched level of care our patients deserve, and have come to expect. While none of us can control the weather, and we were able to rebuild after only half a day, we were dismayed to be hindered in our mission even for that short amount of time. As conditions quickly improved, and we were able to once again provide comprehensive, evidence-based, music-focused treatment to our client community, the experience reminded Recovery Unplugged about the importance of perspective and perseverance in addiction recovery, and that adversity, in any form, is only temporary.

When a person or family is affected by addiction, it’s often as though a metaphorical storm has blown through their individual and collective lives. The time it takes to rebuild a life that has been affected by the fallout of substance abuse may far exceed that of any superficial structure or building; but it can and must be done. Much like putting a house, a building or even a town back together; however, it takes help from the people around us and it takes perseverance on our own part. It’s easy to just let a structure burn or crumble without doing what it takes to save it. In the end, however, we will only find ourselves without a home or sense of place.

Even when addiction seems to have blown our lives or our loved ones’ lives apart, we can rebuild with a solid and reliable foundation of self-awareness, perspective and perseverance. We can weather any storm in our lives if we believe that our lives are worth saving and preserving. Recovery Unplugged wants to remind all past, present and future patients of their innate strength and character, and that they can rebuild their lives after addiction, just as we were able to do so after the recent tornado. Thank you so much for your continued, and entirely reciprocated, faith in our mission, and for letting us help you or your loved one overcome addiction. It has been, and will continue to be, our pleasure and calling to provide care to those that need it, no matter what obstacles life may throw at us. We are stronger than the adversity in our lives, no matter how overwhelming it may seem to us now.

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Misinformation Plays Significant Role in Texas Drug Epidemic

[fa icon="calendar'] Mar 9, 2017 2:22:13 PM / by RU Texas posted in Overdose, Recovery, Addiction, Addiction Treatment, Heroin Addiction, Opioid, Underreporting

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get-facts.jpgIt’s, frankly, little surprise that many healthcare organizations and state agencies would have a hard time keeping up with the glut of addiction-related fatalities consuming the United States. The reality is that this urgent and pervasive public health issue is growing faster than we, as a nation, can get our arms around it. The fact remains; however, that when inaccurately reported numbers (however unintentional) are allowed to fester and go uncorrected it has a nasty habit of dictating policy; this is a reality that the Lone Star State is finding out, first hand, as it endeavors to curb substance abuse within its borders.

Last year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released numbers that indicated Texas had among the lowest rates in the nation for heroin and opioid abuse. Data from the Houston Chronicle, however, indicates that these numbers might be a product of underreporting. There have been multiple examples of misalignment between state and county calculations that have resulted in a lowballing of the state’s overdose rates. County estimations, which are likely to be more accurate, are consistently higher than state calculations. Texas is just one of many states in which underreporting and misinformation further clouds the full scope of the addiction problem.

Why is it so important that these numbers are accurately reported? In addition to the obvious answer of making sure every human life is recognized and the state has a full and accurate picture of the public health matters affecting it, these figures translate into real and tangible resources to help counties fight drug and alcohol abuse in their communities. Lower estimates tend to get lower attention and subsequently lower prevention and treatment resources. For its own part, Texas is looking at the discrepancies in numbers and how to best ensure consistency of reporting at the state and local levels, going forward.

With heroin and opioid rates posing such an urgent threat to communities all over the country, it’s easy for certain locales to get lost in the shuffle. One of the best ways to accurately assess the full scope of threat and the progress we’re making to curb it as a nation, from year to year is to make sure everyone is doing their part to deliver the right information. We’ve seen what happens when inaccurate data is allowed to govern the addiction care conversation in this country, and it’s partly responsible for the escalation we have seen in recent decades.

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Is the Substance Abuse Gender Gap Narrowing?

[fa icon="calendar'] Mar 2, 2017 3:01:48 PM / by RU Texas posted in Recovery, Treatment, Alcoholism, Gender, Women

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As long as such factors have been clinically evaluated, men have generally been at a higher risk for substance abuse and chemical dependency than women. While women face their own gender-specific issues that can lead to drug and alcohol abuse, the numbers have always been higher among the male population. New data suggests that this established phenomenon might be on the verge of being upended. A recent Australian study endeavored to reevaluate the current epidemiology of alcoholism and found that it may be changing from just a few decades ago, affecting more and more women in the process. At particular risk are women born in the late 1900’s.

Researchers analyzed 68 alcohol-use studies, the oldest of which dated back to the mid-1900s. The studied included male and female participants across three distinct age groups. After thorough analysis, they found a marked decline over time in the sex ratio of all three age groups. The widest gap was among the oldest age group with man being 2.2 times more likely to develop an alcohol addiction than women. By the time they got to the young-adult group, that figure was cut in half. The findings represent a definitive cultural shift in American alcohol consumption. Researchers assert that the findings mandate closer tracking of both and female drinkers as they enter their 30s and 40s.

This is not, however, the first study to mark this change. Data from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration's Survey on Drug Use and Mental Health illustrates a ten-year narrowing from 2002-2012. One of the things to consider in this collective increase is the relative size of women compared to men and their increased susceptibility to the effects of alcohol by virtue of their mere physiology. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that women who engage in long-term alcohol consumption are more likely than men who drink to develop breast cancer, alcoholic hepatitis and certain heart problems.

While it should come as little surprise that women are increasing their alcohol consumption amid the dissipation of antiquated gender norms, identifying this shifting pattern can be helpful in tailoring treatment to a gender-specific model. The fact is that gender, itself, can play a key role in the means by which a person develops substance abuse. Whether it’s the simple pressure of living up to cultural expectations, the increased likelihood of women over men in experiencing domestic violence or other forms of assault, or a variety of other factors, these issues can be key to the further refinement and customization of treatment programs.

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Aetna Loosens Restrictions on Addiction Treatment Coverage

[fa icon="calendar'] Feb 28, 2017 10:23:15 AM / by RU Texas posted in Recovery, Opioid Addiction, Addiction Treatment, Insurance, Aetna, Healthcare

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And now a bit of good news for addicts and their families who are concerned about treatment access in this uncertain healthcare climate. Leading health insurance provider Aetna recently announced plans to remove what has been critical roadblock for those seeking coverage for medication-assisted treatment for opioid addiction. The change will be implemented starting in March and will apply to all Aetna’s private insurance plans. Aetna, who is one of the world’s largest health insurance companies, is the latest provider to announce such plants over the past few months. Anthem and Cigna also announced looser restrictions on MAT with more and more Americans succumbing to overdose.

Specifically, Aetna will remove the requirement that doctors seek approval before prescribing medications, such as the buprenorphine-based Suboxone, to eligible candidates. Opponents of this requirement, called “prior authorization”, argue that it creates unnecessary delays in access to a potentially life-saving recovery resource. Mounting pressure, including findings from an investigation from New York’s Attorney General regarding coverage rates for addicts, compelled Cigna and Anthem to take this significant step. Aetna is the latest company to follow suit. With Medicaid expansions that make addiction and mental treatment more accessible facing uncertain futures in all states, it’s unclear what lasting impact this move will have or how many other insurance providers will follow.

In 2015, the United States saw record opioid overdose rates, eclipsing the all-time high of the prior year. Doctors at the ground level of this issue have expressed considerable frustration with the barriers that patients face when they’re ready to enter treatment. Addiction is a time-sensitive issue, and it’s rare that patients take the initiative to seek treatment on their own; when they do, it’s important that they have a clear and expedited path to treatment. Doctors have relayed powerful anecdotal evidence that if a patient is forced to wait for treatment, even for a few hours, there’s a chance they’re not coming back. Being forced to wait can permanently discourage them from seeking help.

Medications like Suboxone and Vivitrol have become a game-changing resource for eligible patients struggling with opioid and alcohol addiction. Looser restrictions on their dispensation from insurance providers represent one step forward in striking a balance between responsible prescription practices and proactive solutions for long-term treatment. With the epidemic of prescription opioid and heroin addiction claiming more and more Americans each year, it’s critical that vulnerable patients have every resource possible when endeavoring to overcome their dependency.

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Are Recovery Schools the Wave of the Future for Juvenile Addicts?

[fa icon="calendar'] Feb 21, 2017 11:21:10 AM / by RU Texas posted in Recovery, Addiction, Treatment, Children, Rehab, Education, Recovery Schools

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Addiction has many casualties. Depending upon when, in one’s life, substance abuse takes hold, it can take away any sense of normalcy that so many of us take for granted, including a decent education. Many parents of young addicts are forced to choose between their children’s education and their recovery. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) reports that nearly 32 percent of high school dropouts use illicit drugs and nearly 42 percent abuse alcohol. The agency also reports that dropouts are at increased risk of substance abuse once they leave school and move on to the next phase of their lives.

When we examine the long-term implications of this correlation, the picture gets even grimmer. Dropouts obviously face markedly increased difficulty finding quality employment that provides health insurance and a living wage. These conditions can easily put them in an economic class that, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is three times as likely as higher-earning Americans to abuse dangerous drugs like heroin, which has become one of the nation’s dominant public health issues. Once this poverty-related addiction takes hold, finding a job with healthcare that can pay for treatment while your employer holds your job for you, is a virtual impossibility without the right education.

That’s the problem and more and more states are coalescing behind what they feel is the solution: recovery schools. These schools are specialized, drug-free facilities where adolescents in recovery can receive a quality education through individualized instruction; a flexible curriculum that allows for addiction and mental health treatment; participation in peer support groups; and an environment that caters to sober living. Some have been built as standalone facilities and some are programs within existing high schools. The National Association of Recovery Schools reports that there are nearly 40 recovery schools planned or currently in operation in 20 states across the country. The schools provide a targeted balance between instruction and treatment according to each student’s individual needs and are designed to ensure that even those suffering from drug or alcohol addiction can get an education.

New York is the latest state to offer recovery schools, with Governor Cuomo announcing plans for two this year. Other states that have adopted the recovery school model include Washington, Nevada, California, Colorado, Wyoming, Minnesota, Oklahoma and right here in Texas. Additional schools are planned for the aforementioned New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana Tennessee, Illinois and Wisconsin. The National Association of Recovery Schools offers a clearly outlined roadmap to accreditation. Currently only five schools are accredited; however, this process is not mandatory for operation. Accreditation merely offers an established set of standards and practices that better ensure quality control.

Perhaps one of the primary advantages of recovery schools is that they represent an additional, and potentially critical, safety net for students who go from a standard treatment program right back into their old community. Some data suggests that as much as 85 percent of adolescents who receive treatment start using again within six months to a year. Recovery schools may provide the insulation needed to give teenagers time to heal while completing the education that will be critical in overcoming the fallout of their substance abuse and furthering their lives. These schools serve as a reminder that addiction is not only a medical issue, but an economic and education issue, as well.

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Louisville Overdose Spike Reignites Treatment Versus Enforcement Conversation

[fa icon="calendar'] Feb 16, 2017 12:49:00 PM / by RU Texas posted in Overdose, Recovery, Addiction, Treatment, Opioid

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A city that has been at the forefront of the American opioid epidemic since its start, Louisville, Kentucky recently experienced an even higher-than-usual increase in overdoses this past week. The city’s Metro Emergency Medical Services reported 151 overdose calls in less than seven days. Concerned that these spikes are no longer mere anomalies-but rather the new normal as the rest of the state and the entire country continues to contend with an increasingly pervasive and sophisticated opioid problem-Louisville has pledged to hire 150 new police officers to crack down on dealers. Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer also plans to collaborate with the DEA on overdose death investigations to get heroin dealers off our streets, and forming a task force with other agencies, including the FBI, the DEA, ATF, the US Attorney, Kentucky State Police and the State Attorney General's Office, to pursue, arrest and prosecute violent offenders.

Other Louisville officials-namely Dr. Joann Schulte, who heads the Metro Department of Public Health and Wellness-have a different approach to combatting the statewide public health issue. In a recent apparent indictment of Louisville’s attitude toward medication-assisted treatment, Schulte told council members that Louisville needs to “grow up” and bolster medication-assisted treatment resources, as abstinence doesn’t work for everyone. Schulte forecasted a dim and prolonged battle with drug addiction in the city that saw 695 overdoses in the first month of 2017 alone. She lamented programs that don’t offer medications like methadone or buprenorphine-based drugs due to fears that patients will be replacing one drug with another. Proponents of mediation-assisted treatment claim that abstinence-based care doesn’t work for every patient.

While there is certainly wisdom in bulking up prevention and enforcement resources in the area, little has been said about Louisville’s plans to expand treatment to its sizable population of opioid addicts. Officials at Louisville’s Norton Audobon Hospital report that more overdoses are being treated at the hospital and the patients require larger amounts of the anti-overdose drug Narcan. They cite a significant spike in ER admissions and that more patients are needing to admitted for prolonged periods, rather than just being treated and released. Hospitals alone can’t offer the comprehensive treatment resources of a high-level treatment facility with medically supervised detox and rehab. While the situation in Louisville is unique in its own right, it also paints a larger picture of the ongoing battle between treatment and enforcement-first approaches when it comes to addiction.

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