COPA has established a 2017 Policy Agenda based on input from members and a scan of key issues impacting SUD providers and their clients. In addition, we considered feasibility, opportunities for collaboration, and available resources.

COPA’s Policy Agenda is based on the following General Guidelines:

  • Drug and alcohol abuse and addiction are the most prevalent and costly public health issues nationally and in Colorado. Substance Use Disorders (SUDs) exact significant fiscal and social costs. To address and reduce these enormous costs, it is crucial to fully support and utilize the full spectrum of services available to address substance use conditions including prevention, intervention, treatment and recovery.
  • Prevention, intervention, treatment and recovery services for substance use conditions are significantly underfunded. Many services are either not covered by private or public insurance plans or are reimbursed at inadequate rates. Public block grant funding and other public funding resources have been insufficient to cover the need. COPA supports policies that improve public and private insurance coverage, services covered, reimbursement rates, and safety net coverage.
  • Medicaid does not cover key components of the full spectrum of substance use disorder services. Reimbursement is often inadequate for those services that are covered. Substance use disorder professionals and the provider organizations who employ them face significant barriers in serving their Medicaid clients. Those suffering from substance use disorders face a fragmented system that fails to meet their needs effectively.

Use of Marijuana Tax Revenue for Substance Use Disorder Needs

The legalization of marijuana in Colorado will continue to increase marijuana use and associated problems. COPA is particularly concerned about the effect of legalization on adolescent use of marijuana as well as the effects on other vulnerable populations. In 2017, we anticipate the need for COPA’s leadership on the following legislative and budget priorities:

  1. Protect and increase the amount of marijuana tax revenues dedicated to the full continuum of substance use services, including prevention, early intervention, treatment and recovery.
  2. Promote policies that assure a nexus between marijuana tax revenues and the associated problems from marijuana use. This includes policies aimed to promote coordination across the programs funded and assure outcomes that have a measurable impact on addressing substance use issues.
  3. Advocate for funding directed toward the “critical service gaps” that will be identified in the Community Action Plans required by the INCREASING ACCESS TO EFFECTIVE SUBSTANCE USE DISORDER SERVICES ACT (SB16-202). These plans are being developed by Managed Service Organizations in conjunction with community stakeholders and are due to the legislature in March of 2017.
  4. Advocate for the creation of an Office of Substance Use Prevention and Intervention (or similar name) to provide focus, state prioritization, and coordination.

Medicaid and Substance Use Disorder Services

Medicaid covers 1.33 million people in Colorado. SUD services and providers are not fully covered, leading to fragmented, ineffective care for Medicaid clients suffering from SUD. In 2017, we anticipate the need for COPA’s leadership on the following policy priorities:

  1. Advocate for Medicaid coverage of the full spectrum of services available to address substance use conditions including prevention, intervention, treatment and recovery. In particular, lack of coverage for residential treatment and recovery support services leaves major coverage gaps for Medicaid patients and providers. And, Medicaid does not cover primary prevention activities that could reduce the incidence of substance use disorders among Medicaid patients.
  2. Support efforts to increase SUD providers participating in the Medicaid program. This includes actively participating with the Department of Health Care Policy and Financing to develop value-based reimbursement models for substance use disorder services. It also includes addressing other barriers to SUD provider participation, including contractual requirements and payment procedures of the state’s Medicaid contractors.
  3. Assure policy efforts currently underway to integrate primary care and behavioral health services specifically consider substance use disorders and the integration of providers equipped to provide such care. We support policies that utilize and recognize the expertise of the existing prevention, intervention, treatment, and recovery workforce.

Support Providers in Obtaining and Maintaining Funding

Federal and state funding administered by various state agencies provides a critical funding source for COPA members and the clients they serve. COPA provides technical assistance and support to its members as they navigate policies and procedures in their efforts to obtain and maintain funding. As we learn of trends impacting providers that point toward a need to modify policies and procedures, COPA collaborates with state agencies to develop and work toward solutions. While COPA has worked most closely with the Department of Human Services’ Office of Behavioral Health (OBH), our work also includes collaboration with Departments of Public Health and Environment, Health Care Policy and Financing, and others. In 2017, we anticipate the need for COPA’s leadership on the following policy priorities:

  1. Develop a partnership between COPA member providers and state agencies that maximizes the expertise and input of substance use providers. Encourage state agencies to actively seek stakeholder input in advance of decisions and collaborate with providers when developing, implementing and evaluating policies and programs. Through partnership and collaboration, shared goals can be established that better serve the needs of Coloradans at risk of or experiencing substance use disorders.
  2. Advocate for changes in state policies and procedures to assure timely, fair decisions on funding, reduce barriers for providers in obtaining and maintaining funding, and assure good stewardship of public funds. This may include policies and procedures on Requests for Proposals (RFPs), contracts, grant reports, or timely processing of license renewals.
  3. Promote policies that support the availability of the full range of SUD services, including proven methods and innovative new solutions. This may include policies that promote use of Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT), supportive housing in early recovery, intensive case management, and other promising strategies.

Opioid Epidemic

COPA members are seeing the effects of the national opioid crisis on a daily basis as they work with clients impacted by their own addiction or that of their family members or others in their community. There are no easy policy solutions and a multi-pronged approach is critical. COPA plans to collaborate with others concerned about this issue to develop a coordinated policy response.

For more information about COPA and our 2017 Policy Agenda, please contact Adeline Hodge at copa@frontlinepublicaffairs.com.