PEAR Vermont Advocacy Update
Mental Health & Substance Use and Misuse Priorities
Legislative Session 2016, Week 11
Mental Health Advocacy Day: Partnership and Progress
The Vermont Association for Mental Health and Addiction Recovery celebrated our annual advocacy day at the statehouse on Thursday. It was a day of passionate advocacy and a celebration of our work together for a healthier Vermont. Why was it such a success? Partnership. We collaborated with NAMI-VT, Vermont Care Partners and over 30 additional co-sponsors to make the day better than ever. Governor Peter Shumlin, Secretary Hal Cohen, Commissioner Frank Reed, and numerous other state leaders spoke and reaffirmed their commitment to our cause. Thank you to all who joined us!
Federal Changes on Suboxone
Washington is taking a look at the current restrictions on the use of Suboxone for addiction treatment. At the moment doctors are restricted to using the drug with 100 patients. But some docs, even in Vermont, could treat more. Consideration is being given to raising the cap to 500 patients per doctor. The difference would particularly impact practices that specialize in medically assisted treatment for addiction – practices that are an important part of the state’s hub and spoke treatment model.
Vermont Public Radio: Proposed Changes Could Relieve Opiate Treatment Backlog
Testimony on Medicaid in House Appropriations
Given an opportunity to address House Appropriations, Vermont Care Partners presented powerful testimony on the need for Medicaid rate increases to support the work of the state’s designated and specialized service agencies. The testimony was led by Mary Moulton, Director of Washington County Mental Health, who headed a team that also included the CFOs from Washington and Rutland counties. The CFOs made the situation clear, stating that under the current financial scenario agencies could be going out of business – liquidating net assets and unable to hire staff. They explained that over the past five years with only a 3% rate increase net assets shrank due to the need to give pay raises, pay for health insurance and other infrastructure costs. Moulton emphasized that the number of vulnerable Vermonters is growing – including children and families. She testified to the agencies’ impact on health care reform, pointing out that they do community work and achieve outcomes that health providers don’t, preventing higher cost health care interventions. Moulton also gave examples of programs that might be cut in response to ongoing under-funding: emergency, outpatient, advocacy and peer services. The testimony seemed to have an impact. More to follow.
House Plays Catch-Up On Marijuana
The Senate spent the last year working on pot legalization. Now, the House has six weeks to do a study of its own. The first stop is the Judiciary Committee where the bill has an uncertain future. In a recent straw vote not a single member of the committee was prepared to offer open support to the bill as it has come over from the Senate. As things stand, the House members have much to catch up on. It remains unclear that they can reach the finish line by the end of the session. With this being an election year, there may be a reluctance to make this issue a priority as legislators will be eager for an early adjournment.
How’s Does Your County Rank?
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute have done their nationwide annual County Health Rankings.
Vermont’s 2016 County Health Rankings, starting with better performance in the respective summary rankings:
- Chittenden County
- Addison County
- Lamoille County
- Washington County
- Windsor County
- Orange County
- Caledonia County
- Franklin County
- Grand Isle County
- Bennington County
- Rutland County
- Windham County
- Essex County
- Orleans County