Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick

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Fitzpatrick Continues Push for Addiction Treatment Access

Oct 12, 2017
Press Release
Vice chair of Bipartisan Heroin Task Force testifies to House committee on importance of ‘Road to Recovery Act’

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick (PA-08), vice chair of the Bipartisan Heroin Task Force and a certified EMT, continued his fight to combat the opioid epidemic by ending the outdated and ineffective IMD Exclusion that blocks access to treatment for people who need inpatient treatment for addiction including some of society’s most vulnerable. Fitzpatrick is the author of the bipartisan Road to Recovery Act [H.R. 2938] - legislation eliminating the Medicaid Institutions for Mental Diseases (IMD) exclusion for substance use disorder and help states expand access to inpatient treatment for Medicaid enrollees. 

The Road to Recovery Act is an endorsed policy of the National Association of Attorneys General and the President Trump's Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis.

Fitzpatrick’s testimony as prepared for delivery is below:

“I would like to start off by thanking Chairman Burgess, Ranking Member Green, and members of the Subcommittee on Health for holding this hearing.

Mr. Chairman, drug overdoses involving prescription opioids and heroin have nearly quadrupled since 1999 and are now the leading cause of accidental death. Substance abuse costs our country over $600 billion annually. In my home state of Pennsylvania, drug-related deaths and opioid addiction rates were among the highest in the country. Within a one year, Pennsylvania’s opioid-related deaths rose 20 percent while my district’s increased by 50 percent.

This epidemic is costing us both resources and precious lives.

Carlos Castellanos of Falls Township, Bucks County always loved sharing his talents and love of music by playing the guitar and drums at school and for local church groups. However, like so many around the nation, Carlos got involved with drugs during his time in school and even spent some time in jail. But, with the strength and support of his family, he began receiving treatment and his life improved. He helped others by volunteering at a recovery house and he brought people suffering in similar situations to treatment programs.

In early December, Carlos walked his mother, Pamela, down the aisle for her wedding. He was getting ready to go back to school, he had a steady job, and a girlfriend. It would seem to many that Carlos’ battle with addiction was heading in the right direction – a needed point of hope in a war that’s caused so much devastation.

Then, on December 23rd, just days before Christmas, two police detectives showed up at Pamela’s door to tell her the devastating news that no mother can prepare for: Carlos had overdosed on a drug laced with fentanyl and was unable to be saved.

Mr. Chairman, Carlos’ life – and his death – cast a bright light on the fact that addiction is nothing short of a chronic disease.

I share this story with members of this chamber because we must realize that we have treat the whole person, not just the addiction. We must focus on the underlying issues driving people to seek opioids, while increasing the accessibility and affordability for prevention, education, treatment, and recovery of this disease. The so-called Institutions for Mental Diseases – or IMD – exclusion is a long-standing policy that prohibits the federal Medicaid matching funds to states for services rendered to Medicaid enrollees who suffer from substance use disorder and mental health treatment.

Some states – including my home state of Pennsylvania - have used an “in lieu of services” provision allowing for inpatient treatment, but with limitations on patient population, facility size, and length of stay. These limitations disproportionately affect those under Medicaid – blocking access to treatment for people who need inpatient treatment for addiction including some of society’s most vulnerable.

That is why I introduced bipartisan legislation that eliminates the IMD exclusion for substance use disorder and help states expand access to inpatient addiction services for Medicaid enrollees in a fiscally responsible manner while not intruding on their flexibility to implement care. The Road to Recovery Act addresses real-world concerns expressed by local lawmakers, community leaders and healthcare professionals in my district who endeavor to tackle this epidemic each day.

I urge my colleagues to learn more about this issue and support this bipartisan bill, but also to recommit ourselves to addressing the addiction crisis and fighting for those who suffer.”

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING:

  • Pennsylvania State Representative Gene DiGirolamo: “I applaud Congressman Fitzpatrick for his leadership on this life-saving legislation. Thousands of lives will be saved.”
  • Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro: "Heroin and opioids are the number one public health and safety threat in Pennsylvania and we can’t arrest our way out of this epidemic – we need more access to treatment. I commend Representative Fitzpatrick, who worked with Pennsylvania law enforcement to craft this legislation, for being a leader in fighting this crisis. This bill will remove bureaucratic barriers to treatment so everyday Americans can get the help they need.”  
  • Bucks County Drug & Alcohol Commission: “Now, more than ever, our residents require extensive, sustained and long term treatment, in order to develop the necessary skills to establish long-term recovery. The proposed bill will enhance our residents’ chances to their recovery taking root, as they will be allowed an appropriate length of stay in residential treatment… We are enthusiastic about the potential to assist our county residents as they seek treatment and recovery.” - Diane Rosati, Executive Director
  • Rehabilitation and Community Providers Association (RCPA): "On behalf of the Rehabilitation and Community Providers Association (RCPA) and its members, I would like to thank Congressman Fitzpatrick for introducing the Road to Recover Act. This bipartisan bill addresses the antiquated and problematic IMD Final Rule and will enable Pennsylvania to expand access to residential treatment for substance use disorders, while not intruding on a state’s flexibility to implement care.” - Richard S. Edley, President & CEO
  • National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO): “Local health departments are key players in connecting those seeking treatment with appropriate services. Removing barriers to treatment covered by Medicaid and CHIP will increase inpatient treatment access for substance use. Local health departments are on the frontlines of the opioid epidemic and support solutions along the prevention-treatment continuum. The focus here is treatment and ensuring there is access to treatment for the most vulnerable in our communities.” - Laura Hanen, Interim Executive Director
  • American Society of Addiction Medicine: “On behalf of the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM), the nation’s oldest and largest medical specialty society representing more than 4,300 physicians and allied health professionals who specialize in the treatment of addiction, I am writing to offer our support for your bill which would lift the Medicaid Institutions for Mental Diseases (IMD) exclusion for mental health and substance use disorder residential treatment facilities. ASAM thanks you for your leadership on this important issue. Repealing the IMD exclusion is critical to improving access to addiction treatment and we are pleased to endorse your legislation.” - Kelly Clark, MD, MBA, DFASAM, President
  • Partnership for Drug-Free Kids: “With 144 people dying from drug overdoses each day in our country, it is imperative that we remove every possible barrier to getting people the treatment that they need, including addressing the IMD exclusion, an antiquated law which makes it impossible for many institutions to provide substance use disorder treatment to Medicaid patients.  The fix for this problem is long overdue and is a necessary step to increase access to treatment services.” - Marcia Lee Taylor, President & CEO
  • NAADAC, the Association for Addiction Professionals  - “The Road to Recovery Act of 2017 is an important and long overdue piece of legislation that NAADAC fully supports. Removing the 16 bed limit on treatment facilities and the cap on length of stay are imperative steps for expanding access to and the effectiveness of impatient treatment for those living with substance use disorder and co-occurring disorders. The proposed legislation will allow residential treatment facilities to have increased funding available for all types of treatment, become more self-sustainable, increase the quality of their work, and ultimately save more lives.” – Cynthia Moreno Tuohy, Executive Director of
  • American Academy of Emergency Medicine (AAEM): Emergency physicians are on the front lines of the opioid epidemic and encounter patients every day dealing with substance use disorder. We are very concerned about the current misuse of prescription pain medications and the subsequent adverse health consequences. Our goal is to provide the most appropriate, highest quality medical care to our patients. By expanding access to inpatient treatment for substance use disorder we will increase our capacity to serve all patients in the emergency department” – Kevin Rodgers, MD FAAEM, President
  • Rehabilitation and Community Providers Association (RCPA): "On behalf of the Rehabilitation and Community Providers Association (RCPA) and its members, I would like to thank Congressman Fitzpatrick for introducing the Road to Recovery Act. This bipartisan bill addresses the antiquated and problematic IMD Final Rule and will enable Pennsylvania to expand access to residential treatment for substance use disorders, while not intruding on a state’s flexibility to implement care.” - Richard S. Edley, President/CEO

National organizations supporting the Road to Recovery Act include:

  • Community Anti-Drug Coalition (CADCA)
  • NAADAC- the Association for Addiction Professionals
  • Partnership for Drug-Free Kids
  • American Medical Association (AMA)
  • America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP)
  • Addiction Policy Forum (APF)
  • Healthcare Leadership Council (HLC)
  • Anthem
  • American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP)
  • National Association of City and County Health Officials (NACCHO)
  • National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD)
  • Medicaid Health Plans of America (MHPA)
  • Association for Behavioral Health & Wellness (ABHW)
  • Association for Community Affiliated Plans
  • American Academy of Emergency Medicine (AAEM)
  • Caron Treatment Centers

Local and state organizations supporting the Road to Recovery Act include:

  • Drug & Alcohol Service Providers Organization of Pennsylvania
  • Life Sciences Pennsylvania
  • California Consortium of Addiction Programs & Professionals
  • Independence Blue Cross
  • Council on Alcoholism & Drug Abuse of Northwest Louisiana
  • Pennsylvania College of Emergency Physicians
  • AmeriHealth Caritas
  • UPMC Health Plan
  • Gaudenzia
  • CareSource
  • Livengrin Foundation
  • Illinois Association of Behavioral Health
  • Pennsylvania Bucks County Drug & Alcohol Commission
  • Pennsylvania Attorney General
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