By Nadine Ono.
Riverside County took an important step toward helping its residents with substance and alcohol abuse issues. This week, the Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a plan, commonly known as the 1115 Waiver, to expand and improve treatment for low-income residents struggling with substance use disorder.
“Drug and alcohol dependence is a major health issue that impacts whole families, but it is hard for families to figure out how where to go to get care,” explained Rhyan Miller, program administrator for the Riverside University Health System’s Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Program. “The steps we are taking now will make it easier for people to get the help they need, when and where they need it.”
The Board voted for the implementation of the California Department of Health Care Services plan that allows RUHS Behavioral Health Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Program to utilize the waiver.
The California Section 1115 Waivers allows states to use Medicaid Funds through the Affordable Care Act for uses that have been not previously been allowed under federal laws. Counties must apply for the waivers and demonstrate why the funds would go toward those programs. Riverside County was the second county in the state to apply for and receive the waiver.
Under the approved plan, Medi-Cal (California’s Medicaid program) patients will be covered for a much greater range of drug and alcohol treatment options – from outpatient to residential treatment. Counselors and clinicians will also have new tools to assess each patient’s particular condition and background and be able to refer patients to the most appropriate treatment.
Additional services that will be available under the plan include new case managers who can help people navigate the care system, new outpatient and short-term residential services, withdrawal management, narcotic treatment program services (methadone), recovery services, physician consultation, and additional medication assisted treatments. Services are available to both adults and teenagers as well as more options to help patients who might otherwise face cultural or language barriers to traditional health and behavioral health care services.
RUHS is partnering local community-based organizations such as the MFI Recovery Center to provide the expanded services. The organization’s Executive Director Craig Lambdin explained one of the changes will take place for clients: “One of the things we can do with it is provide medication-assisted treatment to our clients throughout our whole system whether it’s residential, outpatient and particularly in the after-care component.”
By implementing the new program, Riverside County is not only helping residents combat alcohol and substance abuse issues, it is also keeping potential offenders from committing crimes. The Riverside jail study conducted by CA Fwd’s J-SCI team showed that 30 percent of jail bed days in the study year were the result of new crimes involving drug and narcotics.
Additionally the plan will also help Riverside County residents who are released from jail and in need to substance and alcohol treatment programs. Lambdin said these programs are vital “because, especially with opiates, the recidivism is so high. “So the importance of maintaining an ongoing contact and being there when they need their medications–if they don’t get them, they’re going to turn to the streets and that’s how they end up back in the jails.”
Added Miller, “The ultimate goal is to guide them into a life of recovery so they can reunite or build families, so that they can have an impact back on the community for years to come, which would include staying out of jail and not breaking the law.”
Riverside County will begin implementation in February 2017 and, as one of the first counties to move forward, can serve as a model for the rest of the state.