Spotlight on Pennsylvania: Ending the Opioid Epidemic

Prepared in partnership with the American Medical Association and the Pennsylvania Medical Society

Pennsylvania has been hit hard by the opioid epidemic, with prescription opioid-related overdoses growing in the early 2000s and, more recently, high volumes of heroin and fentanyl coursing through the commonwealth due to its strategic location as a major transportation hub. The challenges faced by the commonwealth make for an ideal case study of how strong leadership can make a difference—even though the fight is not over yet.

A new spotlight analysis, developed by Manatt Health in partnership with the American Medical Association and the Pennsylvania Medical Society, focuses on two agencies—the Pennsylvania Medicaid agency and the Pennsylvania Insurance Department—and provides a detailed analysis of what the commonwealth has accomplished in three areas: substance use disorder treatment, pain management and harm reduction. Highlights include analysis of Pennsylvania’s:

  • Comprehensive support for MAT. Pennsylvania has adopted multiple measures to increase access to medication-assisted treatment (MAT) for substance use disorders, considered essential for evidence-based treatment.
  • Enforcement of parity laws. The Pennsylvania Insurance Department is actively reviewing benefit packages, prior authorization policies and cost-sharing obligations to enforce mental health and parity laws.
  • Comprehensive naloxone access. A statewide standing order and stakeholder support for increased naloxone access have helped save lives from overdose.

The spotlight analysis also makes recommendations on where Pennsylvania can build on its successes, including expanding efforts in emergency departments and law enforcement to link patients to high-quality care, and requiring insurers to enhance access to non-opioid pain care so that patients have alternative treatments as opioid prescriptions are reduced.

This paper is the first in a series of in-depth analyses, produced by Manatt and the AMA, of four states’ responses to the opioid epidemic, intended to identify best practices and next steps to address the crisis. The second analysis focuses on Colorado’s efforts to end the opioid epidemic.

Click here to read the full report.

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