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Health overhaul may grow Indiana addiction services

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The possibility of thousands of Indiana residents becoming eligible for addiction treatment under the federal health overhaul has state officials and providers preparing for an expansion.

About 60,000 Indiana residents per year now receive treatment for addiction to alcohol and drugs, federal officials estimate, and 38,264 Indiana addicts could become newly eligible for insurance on Jan. 1, an Associated Press analysis of government data revealed.

While it remains unclear whether Gov. Mike Pence and federal officials will agree on a Medicaid expansion in Indiana, providers and state officials are planning for more addicts seeking treatment.

In part because of the health care overhaul, Indianapolis-based Fairbanks is adding outpatient sites in Kokomo and Plainfield and has an extended-care program for women in Shelbyville opening this summer, said Mark Monson, president and CEO.

"We've also worked with various insurance carriers, we're trying to extend our reach and are actively looking at ... rural hospitals where those resources might not be," Monson said.

Fairbanks isn't expecting an influx of new patients all at once, though.

"The expansion in itself will take time," Monson said. "I think it'll take time for the consumers to be educated."

Stephen McCaffrey, the president and CEO of Mental Health America of Indiana, said Indiana, like most states, isn't currently ready to meet the needs of all newly eligible addiction patients if indeed a Medicaid expansion occurs in this state.

However, a key change under the overhaul is addiction treatment will be treated the same as that for physical complaints, McCaffrey said. That could result in higher pay and more doctors and other providers entering the field.

"Substance abuse will be treated as the physical disease it is, so that's very exciting," McCaffrey.

Under legislation approved this year by the General Assembly, the state's Commission on Mental Health is directed to examine the address the state's shortage of mental health professionals when it meets later this year. One way of doing that might be through an expansion of a loan forgiveness program now available to primary care providers, McCaffrey said.

"We're kind of having to ramp up from the bottom. We might be able to do that with loan forgiveness," said McCaffrey, whose group represents mental health professionals.

The Division of Mental Health and Addiction of the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration has taken several steps to prepare for a possible influx of new patients. They include hosting a two-day meeting with providers to help them prepare for changes to addiction treatment under the health care overhaul and arranging training on integrating addiction treatment with primary health care, spokeswoman Marni Lemons said.

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  1. I took Bruce's comments to highlight a glaring issue when it comes to a state's image, and therefore its overall branding. An example is Michigan vs. Indiana. Michigan has done an excellent job of following through on its branding strategy around "Pure Michigan", even down to the detail of the rest stops. Since a state's branding is often targeted to visitors, it makes sense that rest stops, being that point of first impression, should be significant. It is clear that Indiana doesn't care as much about the impression it gives visitors even though our branding as the Crossroads of America does place importance on travel. Bruce's point is quite logical and accurate.

  2. I appreciated the article. I guess I have become so accustomed to making my "pit stops" at places where I can ALSO get gasoline and something hot to eat, that I hardly even notice public rest stops anymore. That said, I do concur with the rationale that our rest stops (if we are to have them at all) can and should be both fiscally-responsible AND designed to make a positive impression about our state.

  3. I don't know about the rest of you but I only stop at these places for one reason, and it's not to picnic. I move trucks for dealers and have been to rest areas in most all 48 lower states. Some of ours need upgrading no doubt. Many states rest areas are much worse than ours. In the rest area on I-70 just past Richmond truckers have to hike about a quarter of a mile. When I stop I;m generally in a bit of a hurry. Convenience,not beauty, is a primary concern.

  4. Community Hospital is the only system to not have layoffs? That is not true. Because I was one of the people who was laid off from East. And all of the LPN's have been laid off. Just because their layoffs were not announced or done all together does not mean people did not lose their jobs. They cherry-picked people from departments one by one. But you add them all up and it's several hundred. And East has had a dramatic drop I in patient beds from 800 to around 125. I know because I worked there for 30 years.

  5. I have obtained my 6 gallon badge for my donation of A Positive blood. I'm sorry to hear that my donation was nothing but a profit center for the Indiana Blood Center.

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