Kinika Young

Director of Children’s Health

Over two months have passed since President Trump announced that the opioid epidemic is a national emergency; however, there has been no official declaration, which would provide more flexibility administratively to combat the crisis.

As the epidemic rages on, the nonprofit Tennessee Justice Center authored a policy brief to highlight the importance of Medicaid in fighting the opioid epidemic and the untapped potential of the program to fulfill President Trump’s instructions “to use all appropriate emergency and other authorities to respond to the crisis caused by the opioid epidemic.”

Tennessee is among the states that have been hit hardest by the consequences of this crisis. The importance of the comprehensive and integrated services offered by Medicaid (administered by TennCare in Tennessee) cannot be overstated; because substance abuse issues often co-occur with other health care issues, holistic medical plans are integral to effective prevention and treatment.

TennCare could continue to improve access to medically necessary treatment for qualifying recipients by eliminating the requirement for prior authorization to prescribe certain medications.

Medicaid funding should be protected to ensure coverage to the current TennCare population. The state could further improve access to these services by taking the recommendations of the legislature’s Three-Star Task Force to use federal Medicaid funding to cover veterans and adults with behavioral health needs, at a minimum.

Mary Linden Salter, Executive Director of the Tennessee Association of Alcohol, Drug and other Addiction Services (TAADAS), said: “This paper provides useful insights on the role of Medicaid in preventing and treating addiction. Medicaid coverage is an essential tool to combat addiction in Tennessee. Any cuts to the Medicaid program will send the newly uninsured to the already underfunded programs for the indigent. Any progress we hope to make will potentially be undercut as a result.”

The Tennessee Justice Center (TJC) is a non-profit public interest law and advocacy firm serving families in Tennessee. It gives priority to policy issues and civil cases in which the most basic necessities of life are at stake and where advocacy can benefit needy families statewide. TJC works to empower its clients by holding government accountable for its policies and actions.

TJC was established in 1996 and is located at 211 Seventh Avenue, North, Nashville, TN. For additional information about the Tennessee Justice Center and its services, call 615-255-0331.

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Medicaid is underutilized in fighting opioid abuse