PROVIDENCE — The state Senate has passed legislation that would strengthen recovery help for people living with behavioral-health and substance-use challenges. The bill would require insurers and health plans to cover the costs of treatments and services and prohibit them from requiring preauthorization before help could begin.
“Patients who visit the emergency room for a problem involving substance abuse shouldn’t be just sent home or discharged to the street if they need further recovery services,” said bill sponsor Sen. Joshua Miller. “The chances of a patient actually getting the help they need and succeeding in their recovery are drastically reduced if they don’t start right away.”
“The most effective way to help people with substance-abuse disorders is to make it as easy as possible for them to get into recovery treatment,” Miller, chairman of the Senate Health and Human Services Committee, said in a media release.
“We need to do everything we can to eliminate any waiting and any administrative hoops they have to jump through. The quicker they walk in the door, the better chance they have at recovery, and the more likely they are to avert an overdose or other serious problem.”
The bill, 2021-S 0769A, requires providers, the state Department of Health, and the state Department of Behavioral Health, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals to formulate plans for placement of individuals before discharge from a hospital. Discharge could be to an inpatient our outpatient setting, depending on a person’s needs.
“This bill helps eliminate the insurance barriers to behavioral-health inpatient treatment, and increase timeliness of care, which can amount to a matter of life or death,” Miller said. “The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the existing mental-health and substance-use disorder crisis across the country, and Rhode Island experienced a record number of overdose deaths in 2020. Now more than ever, we need policies that increase access to care for Rhode Islanders.”
The legislation, cosponsored by seven other senators, drew praise from Linda Hurley, president and CEO of CODAC Behavioral Healthcare.
“Senator Miller‘s bill appears to be a strong step in assuring continuity of care for those with opioid-use disorder, or other substance-use disorders,” Hurley told The Journal. “We know that the gap from the emergency department to care has very often been a gap that is deadly. Assuring payment and ease of access to treatment is critical. Once again, thank you to the authors.”
The bill now goes to the House for consideration.