PEAR Vermont Advocacy Update
Mental Health & Substance Use and Misuse Priorities
Legislative Session 2016, Week 10
Howard Center Report Supports Advocates
A recent report on the budget of the Howard Center paints a stark picture of the underfunding of the designated agencies in the state. Center directors and advocates are lobbying for a 3% increase in Medicaid funding just to try and keep up with rising costs. The report looks at the Howard Center. Its conclusions support the advocate’s position. As the result of underfunding the agencies are unable to keep salaries for staff at a competitive level, and as they lose staff, waiting lines continue to get longer. At the same time reimbursements for group therapy – an effective and efficient way to provide help – have been cut dramatically. Julie Tessler of Vermont Care Partners will be testifying in front of House Appropriations this week; Vermont Care Partners represents the interests of the designated agencies.
Vermont Public Radio: Report Details Chronic Underfunding Of Vermont’s Mental Health Agencies
Project Safe Catch in Montpelier
One more creative approach to addiction is being proposed in Montpelier. Project Safe Catch is designed to reach addicts who have “hit bottom” and are ready to seek treatment. If they hand in their drugs to police, then the police will take them to a treatment center with no questions asked. Law enforcement officials say that they hope to start implementing the program in just a few weeks.
Vermont Public Radio: In Montpelier, A New Project Will Help Drug Offenders Get Treatment
Bustin’ Up the Agency of Human Services?
Senate Bill 107 would carve out a new body from AHS called the Agency of Health Care Administration. The new agency would include the departments of health access, mental health and substance abuse, long-term care and public health, as well as a health care board and the Vermont Health Benefit Exchange. The Government Operations Committee voted the bill out unanimously. The bill, proposed by Sen. Jane Kitchel, D-Caledonia and Chair of Senate Appropriations, would create a new agency focused on managing Vermont’s health care programs. The legislation would do away with the agency’s current six-department structure. AHS currently oversees the departments of Vermont Health Access; Health; Mental Health; Corrections; Children and Families; and Disabilities, Aging and Independent Living. The Administration – represented by AHS Secretary Hal Cohen – disagreed with the Kitchel proposal. Cohen claims that the agency as currently structured makes sense because of issues of funding and policy. Kitchel feels differently, saying that establishment of an agency focused on health care makes both organizational and policy sense.
Pain Pill Limits Move Ahead
Last January Governor Shumlin put the idea of limits on the number of pain pills per prescription in play. Senators have moved ahead with bill S.243 that does just that. The bill says that the Health Department commissioner will be empowered to set those limits. According to the bill the commissioner would consult with a panel of medical professionals pulled from a broad spectrum in order to set the limits. Opponents claimed that the proposal tied the hands of doctors and would lead to multiple visits in cases where fewer would be sufficient.
Electronic Cigarettes Under FireThe House Human Services Committee has come to the conclusion that E-cigarettes should be restricted in just the way that regular cigarettes are restricted. They have passed a bill that would dramatically limit the use of e-cigarettes. They would be banned in places where smoking is already prohibited, including workplaces, hotels and motor vehicles carrying children. Retail stores would also have to limit the location of displays of e-cigarettes. Arguments in the committee included the contention that e-cigarettes were a gateway to smoking real cigarettes and that they were just one more thing that made smoking seem “cool” to adolescents. The committee approved the measure by a vote of 10-1.