Opioid Addiction Treatment in Iowa City to Expand with New Legislations

Opioid Addiction Treatment in Iowa City to Expand with New Legislations

Opioid addiction treatment programs have become a hot topic in Iowa City as leaders and medical officials discussed how to expand drug treatment across the state.

One idea set forth by Chuck Isenhart, a representative from Dubuque, Iowa, was taxing opioids to provide the funds for addiction treatment programs.

That idea was rebuked by David Heaton, a representative from Mount Pleasant, Iowa. He argued that the state’s Medicaid program had to ensure that medication-assisted treatment was disbursed. Doctors also alleged that they encountered issues when seeking permission to prescribe Suboxone to Medicaid patients.

Other ideas involved persuading doctors to get more involved in addiction treatment programs and convincing every insurance company to cover the costs of counseling and medication.  

Iowa has a growing problem with opioid overdoses; In 2016, 314 people died from drug-related overdoses compared to 309 the year before, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Lawmakers have taken notice and are attempting to pass legislation to solve the opioid problem. Most of these bills are centered not just on funding for addiction treatment programs but also stopping doctor shopping.

Mike Polich, the CEO of United Community Services (UCS) Healthcare in Des Moines, stated that many people in impoverished areas are standing in lines in the early morning to obtain their methadone.

He added that UCS is already providing the addiction treatment programs that are lacking throughout the state.

Polich said he feels there needs to be more education about substance abuse treatment and that he is not sure if a simple solution will come from a lawmaker.

Stephan Arndt the director of the Iowa Consortium for Substance Abuse Research
Stephan Arndt is the director of the Iowa Consortium for Substance Abuse Research. (Photo courtesy of Arndt)

Southern Iowa will soon have their first methadone provider at the end of April thanks to UCS and a federal grant. Polich said it’s a joint effort and that his organization will be providing a full range of medications across treatment centers in Waterloo, Burlington and Knoxville.

Other professionals across the state indicated expanding access to treatment with medications such as methadone was not a simple solution.

Missy Howard, the clinical director of UCS Healthcare, stated that there was

a perceived notion that patients who took and relied on methadone were bad.

Many treatment providers indicated that there was an attitude barrier hindering the process and a stigma attached to the medicines she related that they were trying to remove that.

Methadone is only one medication that is used to treat addiction. Other forms of medication include Campral, Suboxone, Vivitrol and Antabuse.

Stephan Arndt, the director of the Iowa Consortium for Substance Abuse Research, discussed the current climate of the state’s drug treatment programs.

“We’re still behind the rest of the country and that’s in part because of the way Iowa is made,” he said. “There aren’t many large urban centers with a high concentration of people with opioid use disorders.”

He pointed out that a majority of the… (Continue Reading)