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EDITORIAL: Now not time to curtail Medicaid funding
Canton Repository - 10/30/2017
Oct. 30--A lot happened last week in the battle against opioids, from the president declaring the crisis a public health emergency to researchers at Ohio State University reporting it's costing Ohio as much as $8.8 billion per year to fight abuse and addiction -- an amount roughly equal to what the state is spending on education for grades K-12.
So, while all spending must be evaluated in Ohio, and the state certainly cannot be wasting any financial resources, it is not the right time to pull back on funding Medicaid, one of the main avenues for Ohioans to receive medical care and addiction treatment.
Such a decision could come today.
The seven-member state Controlling Board will meet in Columbus to decide whether to approve a request from Gov. John Kasich'sMedicaid Department for an additional $264 million. That funding would be leveraged to collect $638 million in federal matching money.
The Controlling Board is a bipartisan panel that meets on Mondays -- roughly 21 or 22 times a year -- to approve certain state budgetary expenditures or to make adjustments in the biennial budget. Capital spending for state projects, for example, passes through the Controlling Board.
As reported in today's edition, rejecting the request for Medicaid could cut off funding for tens of thousands of Ohioans who depend on it for their health care.
President Trump's declaration Thursday, while important, lacks federal financial commitments. As the Associated Press reported, it does make it easier for the government to shuffle resources and to make other changes, such as expanding access to medical services in rural areas, but it does not bring new dollars.
Senior administration officials said they hope Congress will provide more funding in a spending bill later this year, though officials would not say how much money the White House is seeking, according to reports.
"We cannot allow this to continue," Trump said of the crisis in a lengthy address at the White House. "We can be the generation that ends the opioid epidemic. Let's do it."
We must do it at the local, state and federal levels.
Ohio is among the nation's leaders in opioid-related overdose deaths, with a record 4,050 fatalities in 2016, a 33 percent increase from 2015.
Stark County service providers see some encouraging signs locally, but we're still seeing about 14 Ohioans die from overdoses -- most from opioids -- each day. Now is not the time to cut funding for one of the more important paths to treatment -- certainly not before the state and federal governments have established alternative funding sources for the overwhelming need.
We agree with Lori Criss, CEO of the Ohio Council of Behavioral Health & Family Services Providers, who said after Trump's declaration: "Every dollar invested in prevention, treatment and recovery services saves dollars in other parts of the Ohio and federal budgets. Now that the president has declared the opioid crisis a national public health emergency, let's truly begin to treat it like one and invest in what works."
We urge the Controlling Board not to pull back on Medicaid funding at this time.
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