We are now on the other side of a very successful Conference in New York at the Marriott Marquis Hotel. More than 2,100 attendees participated in this Conference over the course of five days. At the outset, it is important to acknowledge the leadership of Allegra Schorr, who served as the Chair of this Conference in addition to her being the President of COMPA, which is AATOD’s New York Chapter. She did a fantastic job in organizing her Committee Chairs and membership in addition to the Conference Leadership Team. I also owe a great debt of gratitude to our New York State provider colleagues and New York State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services officials, most especially Commissioner Arlene González-Sánchez.
Robert Kent, who serves as the General Counsel for OASAS and Belinda Greenfield, who serves as the State Opioid Treatment Authority of OASAS, were incredibly helpful through our Conference planning process.
The Conference gives AATOD the opportunity to advance our policy initiatives from one Conference event to the next.
The Opening Plenary session followed two days of solid pre-Conference sessions. These pre-Conference sessions off more in-depth opportunities to present critical information to the field. We were fortunate to have SAMHSA, NIDA and AAAP as some of our partners in addition to NAMA Recovery. Our Clinicians Course also featured some of the latest clinical developments in our field.
The Lieutenant Governor of New York, Katherine Hochul and Commissioner Arlene González-Sánchez provided a blueprint of state policy initiatives. This clearly represented the work that AATOD is doing with a number of states and federal authorities. Dr. Icro Maremmani, who serves as the President of the World Federation for the Treatment of Opioid Dependence also outlined AATOD’s leading international initiatives with our World Federation and EUROPAD associates. This represents the long-standing partnership that we have had since 1989. I will have the opportunity to present at the World Federation/EUROPAD Conference at the end of May 2018 in Krakow, Poland.
Dr. Icro Maremmani also summarized our work with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime and the United States Department of State.
The Middle Plenary Session also focused on a number of AATOD’s leading initiatives with Medicaid expansion, working with commercial carriers and working with correctional facilities. Dr. Jason Helgerson presented what New York State Medicaid is doing in expanding access to treatment including increasing quality of care. The presentation also gave Conference participants an understanding of how Medicaid authorities work with State Alcohol and Substance Abuse Authorities in different parts of our country.
AATOD has been working to increase access Medicaid reimbursement so that Medicaid eligible patients will be covered and their care will be paid for when they need access to OTPs. As I pointed out in my Opening Plenary speech on Monday March 12th, 2018, four states recently announced initiatives to provide access to Medicaid reimbursement for OTPs, including Indiana, Illinois, West Virginia and Kentucky. There are 12 states that still do not provide Medicaid coverage and we are working with our provider colleagues and state officials to reach our goal of having every state covering such Medicaid reimbursement initiatives. This is certainly in line with the President’s Commission on Combating the Opioid Crisis as Chaired by Governor Chris Christie.
Dr. Mark Friedlander provided a clear summary of the value of working with commercial carriers and the challenges in reimbursing OTPs with commercial insurance. Clearly, the issues of co-payments and deductibles do not work in the kind of services that OTPs provide and the frequent visits that patients will make to OTPs. It is not like any model that commercial carriers have used in the past in general medical care. AATOD will develop basic guidelines for OTPs and commercial carriers in 2018 to build upon this work as more individuals are covered in such programs.
Dr. Kathleen Maurer also made a critically important presentation on her work through the Department of Corrections in the state of Connecticut. It is the first system to have a statewide implementation to diagnose inmates with opioid use disorder in addition to providing access to the three federally approved medications to treat this disorder with referrals to treatment upon release. Dr. Maurer’s presentation underscored the fact that lives are saved as such treatment opportunities are provided. We will work with our counterparts in correctional facilities throughout the country to build upon this initiative, which is being replicated in a number of states. It represents a major strategy of transferring people, who are in correctional facilities with opioid use disorder, to treatment facilities on release to stop the revolving door of reincarceration.
The workshops provided cutting edge clinical and policy information throughout the Conference event, which led to a stunning Closing Plenary with Dr. Elinore McCance -Kat, the Assistant Secretary of Health, in addition to Congressman Patrick Kennedy. Both remarkable presentations gave the audience an overview of how the Administration is moving to execute policy to focus on evidence-based practices of treating this disorder. Congressman Kennedy also provided a great motivational conclusion to our Conference, given his own history and that of his family.
We are beginning our work on the October 19-23, 2018 Conference in Orlando, which will convene at the Coronado Springs Hotel. It is an excellent venue for our Conference and is a wonderful Disney-owned property. David Kneessy will Chair the Conference and will organize all of the Committee Chairs and members in order to plan for another remarkable Conference. The Florida Department of Children and Family Services will serve as the sponsor and we look forward to working with state officials and our Florida based colleagues given their ambitious plans to expand access to opioid treatment programs throughout 2018 and the coming future.
We are focusing on working with Congress to pass the first ever legislation to support Medicare Part B benefits for Medicare beneficiaries in OTPs. We will also engage with many other Congressional Committees with regard to numerous bills that are being introduced for our treatment systems. Our treatment system is expected to expand over the next several years and we will work with all of the appropriate partners to make this happen in addition to ensuring that patients get access to good quality care.
There are a number of pictures that are part of this conference report as a reminder to those who participated in the Conference and to those who did not. It gave everyone an opportunity to get a real sense of how our Conference is executed. I hope that you enjoy the pictures and this report!
Mark W. Parrino, MPA
President, AATOD Inc.