State News

State to invest funds in mental health and substance abuse prevention

Gov. Scott Walker called on the state’s Department of Health Services to increase investment in mental health and substance abuse disorders.

Image By: Katie Scheidt

In an effort to grant greater access to treatment for those suffering from mental health and substance use disorders, Gov. Scott Walker directed the Department of Health Services Tuesday to increase reimbursement rates for behavioral health service professionals.

Building off what Walker calls a historical investment in the state’s Comprehensive Community Services funding, the directive addresses the ever-growing opioid epidemic in Wisconsin. The rate of heroin-related fatalities in the state is 12 times what they were in the year 2000 and prescription opioid deaths up as much as six times from 2000.

The most effective way to respond to the opioid epidemic begins with increasing access for outpatient treatment toward those suffering addiction and support the treatment workforce, according to the DHS.

The directive aims to not only provide treatment efforts with the tools and resources necessary to better deal with substance abuse but also to attract and retain highly skilled professionals in the field.

In order to meet this standard, the directive revises Wisconsin Medicaid to increase the maximum reimbursement rate for health service professionals while simplifying the current structure. The rate induction intends to help health service providers to cover more patients under their outpatient treatment regardless of a patient’s financial standing.

Financial difficulties often lie at the heart of the issue, according to the UW-Madison student-based support group Live Free, which consider the directive a “huge win.”

“There is an unfortunate relationship between financial instability and substance use disorder,” said Christine Vu, community outreach chair of Live Free, an organization that seeks to establish a community network that serves students in or seeking recovery.

Individuals often develop addiction through doctoral prescriptions or illegitimate access; the dependency comes to demand an increasingly large share of household income, draining both available funds and the likelihood of maintaining steady work for future income.

The group also praised the state’s emphasis on the treatment workforce while noting the need to foster a community to support treatment recipients along their recovery. The group plans to continue to “[reach] out to [state] representatives about increasing this relationship between mental/behavioral health and the campus community.”

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