HEALTH

State removes barrier to medication-assisted treatment for opioid addiction

BY Julie Daurio, Associate Producer |

A major barrier to medication-assisted treatment for opioid addiction has been removed in New Jersey.

State officials say New Jersey Medicaid recipients will no longer have to wait for approval from the program before beginning medication-assisted treatment. Instead, they can start as soon as it’s prescribed by a health care provider.

The change went into effect Monday.

Medication-assisted treatment, also known as MAT, is considered the clinical standard for treating opioid addiction, according to the New Jersey Department of Human Services.

MAT works by using medication in combination with counseling and behavioral therapies. Medications block the high associated with opioid use while relieving cravings and preventing withdrawal symptoms.

“When someone with an opioid addiction is ready for treatment, we shouldn’t be losing them to care while they wait for approval,” said Human Services Commissioner Carole Johnson. “Our Medicaid plans have worked with us to get this change implemented quickly, and we hope it will make a meaningful difference in terms of timely access to care.”

As part of its plan to combat the opioid crisis, the Murphy administration says it will also invest in training more medical professionals to provide MAT for opioid addiction, create Medicaid payment incentives to encourage primary care providers to offer MAT, and require residential facilities that receive Medicaid payment to provide access to MAT as of July 1.

New Jersey Human Services will also fund two Medicaid Centers of Excellence for opioid treatment — at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School in Newark and Cooper Medical School of Rowan University in Camden — to help community-based clinicians provide addiction treatment.