New Mexico’s Medicaid Program to Cover Methadone for Opioid Addiction

Press Release August 26, 2012
Media Contact

Emily Kaltenbach 505-920-5256 or Steve Lucero 505-328-1391</p>

(SANTA FE, NM) – Starting September 1, the state of New Mexico’s Medicaid Program will begin to reimburse for outpatient Methadone Maintenance Therapy (MMT). New Mexico will join approximately 30 other states in offering Medicaid coverage for MMT.

Although Methadone Maintenance Therapy is but a single piece of a comprehensive system to break opioid dependency, it is statistically proven to be the most effective. The Centers for Disease Control, the National Institutes of Health, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, among others, have unequivocally and repeatedly proven that medication-assisted treatment like MMT are the most effective treatments for opioid dependence and a proven way to reduce overdose deaths.

"Medication assisted therapy along with behavioral health services is a comprehensive approach to addiction treatment that demonstrates promise in helping those with the disease of addiction maintain a healthier quality of life," stated Steve Lucero, Executive Director of the New Mexico Hispanic Medical Association. "This change in Medicaid coverage will give healthcare providers an additional tool to treat addiction."

For more than ten years, advocates have been pressing state officials to remedy this situation, urging them to recognize that many New Mexicans suffering from addiction are not provided any meaningful drug treatment.

“This decision is long overdue,” said Emily Kaltenbach, New Mexico state director of the Drug Policy Alliance. “We trust this is a step in the right direction by bringing an end to treating drug misuse as a moral issue and begin treating it as a health issue that can be solved.”

The NM Hispanic Medical Association and Drug Policy Alliance were among the members of the group of individuals and organizations repeatedly calling for the Martinez Administration to cover methadone maintenance therapy under the state’s Medicaid system.  Both groups sat down with the Martinez staffers to negotiate the coverage.

A newly issued report on drug overdose deaths in the United States from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) found New Mexico to have the highest overall overdose death rate of any state.  The CDC also indicates the state is in the midst of an opioid pill addiction epidemic among adolescents and young adults with a significant proportion of them progressing to heroin.

Medication assisted treatment has been demonstrated in numerous scientific studies to be the most effective treatment for individuals addicted to heroin and prescription opioids. The two most common medications used for treatment are buprenorphine/naloxone and methadone. These medications "occupy" the receptors in the brain that are affected by heroin and other opiates to facilitate detoxification, treatment, and recovery from opioid addiction.

When properly dosed, the medications do not cause euphoria, intoxication, or sedation. Both methadone and buprenorphine work by suppressing withdrawal symptoms, relieving cravings for the drug, and blocking the effects of any opioids. People dependent on street opioids who receive methadone or buprenorphine treatment live longer, spend less time in jail and in the hospital, are more likely to have a stable job, are less often infected with HIV, have lower overdose death rates, and commit fewer crimes.

Appropriate substance misuse treatment is proven to significantly reduce criminal activity during and after treatment. Every dollar invested in substance misuse treatment saves taxpayers $7.46 in societal costs such as crime, violence, and loss of productivity. Averaging $5,000 a year, methadone maintenance therapy has proven to be a cost-effective way to break the cycle of incarceration, preventing the state from paying an upwards of $40,000 a year to incarcerate someone for their addiction.

The Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) is the nation's leading organization of people who believe the war on drugs is doing more harm than good. DPA fights for drug policies based on science, compassion, health and human rights.

The NM Hispanic Medical Association is a private not-for-profit organization striving to make healthcare accessible and affordable to all New Mexicans.

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