Spotlight on Colorado: Ending the Opioid Epidemic

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

Colorado has addressed the opioid epidemic with an array of public and private initiatives. Yet Colorado’s death rate has stayed consistent with national trends, despite a statewide comprehensive opioid strategy and successful efforts to reduce opioid prescriptions. This demonstrates that it will take more than cutting opioid prescriptions to end Colorado’s—and the nation’s—opioid epidemic.

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

  • New efforts to expand treatment. In May 2018, Colorado adopted a package of laws to address the epidemic, including taking an initial step to reduce prior authorization barriers to medication-assisted treatment (MAT); new funding to expand the workforce of healthcare professionals in rural and underserved areas; and plans to open up Medicaid coverage of substance use disorder (SUD) treatment provided in residential settings.
  • New parity policy. Colorado also enacted a 2018 law that established an office of the ombudsman to assist state residents in accessing behavioral healthcare and that required the Division of Insurance to report on compliance with mental health and SUD parity laws. The division is performing market conduct examinations to assess compliance.
  • Opioid alternatives in Medicaid. The state has expanded access to nonopioid pain management strategies in Medicaid, including coverage of nonopioid prescription medications and of alternative therapies such as physical therapy and occupational therapy, as well as a new option for up to six behavioral health visits offered in a primary care setting to support screening and early intervention.

The spotlight analysis also makes recommendations on where Colorado can build on its successes, including eliminating barriers to treatment, expanding access to MAT and fostering connections to treatment.

The Colorado paper is the second 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 first analysis focuses on Pennsylvania’s efforts to end the opioid epidemic.

Click here to read the full report.

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