Obama to announce plans bolstering drug treatment


ATLANTA — President Obama plans to announce steps Tuesday to improve access to drug treatment and ensure millions more Americans have the same level of coverage for mental health and substance abuse treatment as they have for other medical problems.

Federal officials shared some of his plans during a conference call Monday ahead of his appearance at the 2016 National Rx Drug Abuse & Heroin Summit Tuesday, billed as the largest national gathering of those seeking to address the scourge of addiction. The summit, which is drawing more than 1,800 top policymakers, researchers and law enforcement professional, is organized by the Eastern Kentucky anti-drug organization Operation UNITE.

Overdoses from opioids such as prescription painkillers and heroin are epidemic, killing around 28,000 people in the United States each year.

Officials said improving “parity,” or comparability, between benefits for substance abuse and mental health services and other medical services is crucial in giving patients access to the care they need. Richard Frank, assistant secretary for planning and evaluation at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, said his agency is finalizing a rule to strengthen substance abuse and mental health services for Americans enrolled in Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program by making sure they are offered at parity. This would benefit about 24 million people, Frank said.



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