If there’s one thing I’ve learned from the last 12 months, it’s that good things can happen when people work together.
The COVID-19 era has brought many challenges, but from the earliest days of the pandemic, we’ve seen shining examples of individuals and communities setting aside their differences and coming together to help one another.
While we love to hear them, these stories of people finding common ground, working together and lifting up others often feel like outliers. After all, there’s a reason they’re considered newsworthy in the first place. But, throughout my 22-year career working in the addiction treatment and recovery field, these values have definitely been the norm rather than the exception among my colleagues and peers.
All of us share a commitment to helping others who are struggling with substance use and getting more people on the path to long-term recovery. That’s why we’re so encouraged by the General Assembly’s passage of Senate Bill 51 and hope to see this legislation promptly signed into law by Gov. Andy Beshear.
While there is no single path to recovery, medication-assisted treatment (MAT) has proven effective for many individuals living with substance use disorders. SB 51 removes prior authorization requirements for MAT so that Kentuckians will face fewer roadblocks once they’ve decided to turn their lives around.
When insurance companies implement prior authorization requirements, patients are forced into a waiting period before they can access the treatments prescribed by their doctors. For someone struggling with substance use, this delay could be a death sentence — or, at the very least, enough time to have a change of heart about pursuing treatment.
Given the severity of Kentucky’s addiction crisis, and the fact that drug and alcohol use and mental health needs have been trending upward as a consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic, we should be eliminating unnecessary barriers to treatment — and in many cases that requires legislative reform.
Removing prior authorization on medication-assisted treatment has been years in the making. In 2020, the General Assembly came close to passing legislation (House Bill 389), but as the state turned its attention to addressing COVID-19, even the most broadly supported legislative efforts — this one, among them — were tabled.
Fortunately, this year, our elected officials were able to make it happen, giving us one more example of the good that can happen when people work together.
As SB 51 awaits Beshear’s signature and we look ahead to our next steps in the fight against addiction, we must remember the many other services and supports our community members need to manage their health and stay in long-term recovery.
Treatment, while important, is just one part of the equation. Housing, peer support, childcare, transportation, job training, education and counseling are all critical components of long-term recovery, and I’m confident that by working together, we can increase access to these services as well.
Over the years, thanks to Beshear's leadership, we’ve been able to chip away at some of the biggest roadblocks in the way of long-term recovery. Today, we know more about substance use disorders than ever before, and as a result, more and more people are recognizing addiction as the complex, chronic disease it is.
People are more openly talking about their personal journeys to recovery, helping others to understand that they’re not alone in their struggles. Stigma and misinformation around addiction are not nearly as prevalent as they were in the past.
Policy plays a big role. When our legislators acknowledge the needs of one of the state’s most vulnerable populations — and come together to make things better — it truly does make a difference.
Seeing SB 51 signed into law will be a win, not just for people struggling with substance use disorders and their loved ones, but for any Kentuckian who wants to see others lead healthier, more meaningful lives. And after the events of the past year, that’s something all of us should celebrate.
Amanda Newton is chief operating officer of Renew Recovery, a company of Brightview Health. She can be emailed at Ashley@runswitchpr.com