Farnum: Thank you for your words, Mr. President; now we need action

Farnum’s Chief Operating Officer Requests Resources to Enhance Treatment for New Hampshire

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Farnum Center Executive Director Cheryl Wilkie, center, leads a tour of the center. Photo/Carol Robidoux

MANCHESTER – Following two high profile visits to New Hampshire by President Donald Trump, Farnum’s leaders hope the next steps include a quick and substantial influx of specific resources to more effectively respond to the opioid epidemic in our state.

“The President’s promise that we would end the scourge of drug addiction in America once and for all by being tough, smart, kind and loving really resonated with me and with my team, and my hope is that he will follow through with the help we need,” Dr. Cheryl Wilkie, Chief Operating Officer of Farnum, said. “Both the President and Vice President effectively highlighted the need to address treatment, prescription drug policy, stricter law enforcement, and enhancing deterrence efforts. We appreciate he is leading this conversation. As someone working to provide treatment, it’s important to take action now.” Dr. Wilkie suggested four areas where more resources could make an immediate impact:

President Donald Trump announced his national policy on the opioid crisis in Manchester on March 19. Photo/Carol Robidoux

Treatment Personnel and Training: Many providers can’t afford to pay the salaries of the medical personnel who are essential to treatment. And although jobs are available, finding qualified workers is a challenge. Providers need a program to accelerate and fund training for treatment providers to meet public demand.

Narcan: This life-saving medication reverses the effects of an overdose. It saves lives, but at $150 per dose, it is a very expensive medication. We applaud making Narcan available for free in schools and on college campuses and we support the proposal to federally fund Narcan for law enforcement. We should expand that to first responders and treatment providers like Farnum.

Increase Medicaid reimbursement: New Hampshire needs to protect this program and recognize that the current reimbursement rates for substance abuse treatment are so low, it doesn’t come close to covering the actual cost of treatment. Facilities like Farnum must find other revenue streams because this current rate is unsustainable. This is one major reason why so many treatment providers struggle to stay open.

Increase financial aid to those who can’t afford treatment: There is a constant struggle for those who need treatment but can’t afford it. We need to provide financial aid to help fund treatment for men and women who would otherwise be turned away from care for lack of resources. Most treatment centers offer financial aid, but there are limits and there are many who don’t get care because they simply can’t afford access. We need resources to fund operations of all treatment centers around New Hampshire and beyond. Hope for New Hampshire is a perfect example of a facility doing good work but struggling to fund its operations. The state has stepped in, but we need more sustainable funding.

Farnum is doing its part. In the last three years, Farnum has rapidly expanded its available beds to more than 140, and administrators have opened and expanded a facility in Franklin. Farnum Center has expanded Suboxone treatment, with more providers and more client openings. Farnum has expanded hours to help families through the evening Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP).

There is urgency to act – look at the treatment reimbursement rates. In January, when all Medicaid clients are pulled off of the exchange and placed in the full Medicaid population, the reimbursement rate for treatment will be $162.50. BDAS pays $140 a day.  The cost to run a program is approximately $275 a day for residential and $425 a day for detox. The financial shortfall is enormous. It’s financially unsustainable.

“Costs are rising, demand is rising and assistance from the state and federal government is not rising to meet this demand,” concludes Wilkie. “We need help and we need it right away.”