AMA, CMS, and Manatt Health Release Study on Colorado’s Efforts to Combat the Opioid Epidemic

May 25, 2024 | Uncategorized

Colorado Opioid Epidemic

A spotlight analysis by the American Medical Association (AMA), Colorado Medical Society (CMS), and Manatt Health reveals significant progress in Colorado’s efforts to address the opioid epidemic. The report highlights reforms that have been implemented, while also recommending further steps for policymakers, insurers, and physicians to save more lives.

Analysis Information

The analysis found that Colorado has made notable strides in increasing access to evidence-based treatment for substance use disorders. Several pilot projects have improved care for patients with pain, and increased access to naloxone, the opioid overdose-reversing drug, has saved thousands of lives. “We conducted this analysis because it’s essential that policymakers know what is working and where additional progress can be made,” said AMA President-elect Dr. Patrice A. Harris, who also chairs the AMA Opioid Task Force. “Colorado has implemented many important policies that are impacting patients’ access to care. Using this momentum, we think Colorado can go even further to save lives of those affected by opioid use disorder.”

This Colorado study is the second in a series of individual state analyses by the AMA, following a recent study on Pennsylvania. Based on data, policy reviews, and discussions with key policymakers, the analysis identified four key areas of success in Colorado.

4 Key Areas Of Success

  1. Adoption of Policies and Funding to Increase Access to Medication-Assisted Treatment: Initial steps have been taken to reduce administrative barriers, increase funding to address workforce issues, and expand Medicaid coverage in residential settings.
  2. Compliance with Mental Health and Substance Use Disorder Parity Laws: The Colorado Division of Insurance is reviewing insurers’ conduct and has established an ombudsman’s office to help patients access behavioral health care.
  3. Increasing Access to Non-Opioid Pain Management for Medicaid Patients: Coverage has been extended to non-opioid prescription medications and alternative therapies, such as physical and occupational therapy, and additional behavioral health care options.
  4. Expanding Access to Naloxone: Early legislation, a standing order for naloxone, Good Samaritan protections, and the elimination of prior authorization for naloxone under Medicaid have been implemented.

“This analysis comes at an important time for Colorado,” said Dr. Debra Parsons, CMS President. “Over the last six years, Colorado has developed policies, enacted laws, and made significant strides in uniting stakeholders to reverse the opioid epidemic. While we continue these successful initiatives, we must closely evaluate their effectiveness to ensure we are directing our efforts appropriately.”

The analysis also highlighted the work of the Colorado Consortium for Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention, which has united hundreds of stakeholders and continues to develop a data-driven dashboard to help direct resources to areas of greatest need. Additionally, the report identified areas for further improvement:

  • Eliminating Barriers to Treatment: Further steps are needed to enforce mental health and substance use disorder parity.
  • Expanding Access to Medication-Assisted Treatment Providers: Especially in rural areas of the state.
  • Leveraging Successful State Pilots: To increase access to multimodal pain care and comprehensive benefit and formulary designs.
  • Linking Naloxone Recipients to Follow-Up Treatment: To begin and sustain recovery.
  • Evaluating State Policies and Programs: To determine what is improving patient care and reducing opioid-related harms, and to identify any unintended consequences of current policies.

“Many recommendations in this report, especially those related to commercial insurance—such as improving enforcement of mental health parity and conducting more comprehensive reviews of addiction professionals in insurers’ networks—are fair and reasonable steps we can tackle immediately,” said Michael Conway, Colorado Insurance Commissioner and head of the state’s Division of Insurance. “We look forward to working with Colorado’s health insurers and physicians to implement solutions that ensure consumers receive the care they need to help end our state’s opioid epidemic.”

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