Politics

Even though most of Gov. Matt Bevin’s proposed changes to Kentucky’s Medicaid system are still locked in a court battle, treatment for drug addiction will be expanded under the program starting July 1.

Kentuckians on Medicaid are currently eligible for some substance use disorder treatment, but the expansion will include coverage for methadone, an addiction medication not previously covered by Medicaid, and up to 30 days at a residential drug treatment facility.

Carol Steckel, commissioner of Kentucky’s Department of Medicaid Services, says the program will assist the state’s fight against the opioid crisis and other substance addictions.

“Implementation of this SUD waiver will increase and improve services to those fighting with addiction,” Steckel said. “Giving extra support impacts quality of life for the entire family.”

The expansion will also allow drug treatment facilities to expand their capacities beyond their current 16-bed limit and provide transportation to methadone clinics for former foster children, pregnant women and people younger than 21.

The changes are part of Gov. Matt Bevin’s Medicaid waiver—an attempt to change how the federal health benefit program operates in Kentucky.

President Donald Trump’s administration approved Bevin’s request, but a federal court blocked most of the proposed changes from going into effect, including requirements for people to prove they are working, volunteering or in school in order to receive Medicaid benefits.

The court allowed Kentucky to proceed with its expansion of substance use disorder treatment. A similar program has been approved in West Virginia.

Bevin and the Trump administration are appealing the decision.

In 2017, 1,565 people died of drug overdoses in Kentucky. Data is not yet available for 2018.

Earlier this year, the federal government gave the University of Kentucky an $87 million grant to try and reduce drug overdoses in the state through services like treatment, transportation needle exchanges and fentanyl test strips.

Ryland Barton is the Capitol bureau chief for Kentucky Public Radio.