DHHS plans to stop reimbursement for methadone treatment

AUGUSTA, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- Maine's Department of Health and Human Services wants to change the way heroin addicts fight their addiction. A new initiative would eliminate reimbursement for MaineCare recipients seeking methadone treatment in an effort to use the alternative treatment of suboxone.

"The focus is to better integrate behavioral health and physical health in the primary care physicians office. Today it is fragmented and not producing good results for the people who most need that support," said Commissioner Mary Mayhew with DHHS.

Suboxone is a doctor prescribed form of treatment to help users overcome heroin addiction. According to Commissioner Mayhew, switching to a suboxone treatment for opiate addiction provides a more hands on approach and allows for more control of the medication.

Addiction counselors agree that suboxone is effective for some patients battling addiction, but there is some concern that this blanket approach could hurt those in need. The director of medicine at the Discovery House, an addiction recovery center, disagrees with the DHHS policy and argues that methadone is only one small piece of an entire package needed to treat addicts.

"It goes against one of the central tenants in medical care treatment which is receiving individual care. While suboxone is great medication and saves thousands of lives who have opioid use disorder, it is not for everyone," said Director of Medicine Dr. Joe Pye with the Discovery House.

The state plans to move forward and Mayhew said it is a more comprehensive approach to stop addiction in Maine.

"We are putting this forward because we believe it is in the best interest of fighting addiction under the primary care umbrella," explained Mayhew.

Under this plan, the state plans to save roughly $900,000 over the next two years.


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