Senator McGuire advances critical state budget request to fund enhanced screening and counseling for opioid and meth addiction

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Sacramento, CA – Senator Mike McGuire is fighting to secure millions that would allow California to implement a successful enhanced drug screening program, which has been proven to help combat drug addiction in other states. The funding would be focused on screening of opioid and methamphetamine addiction when patients see their doctors.

The funding will allow for all Medi-Cal patients to receive screening from their providers, which would ask them about any potential drug use. This results-driven practice is not currently deployed in California for the state’s more than 7 million Medi-Cal patients, 21 and older.

If this funding is secured, when a patient goes to their doctor for a regular visit, they would receive a questionnaire asking if they use any opioid prescriptions or illicit drugs to help them sleep, relax, calm down, feel better, or lose weight. Their answers could lead to additional drug screening, counseling and substance abuse treatment. 

“The opioid crisis has impacted communities big and small all across our country, and rural California has been hit especially hard. We know that early intervention and screening is a powerful tool for Californians to get the help they need to combat their addiction. We’re fighting to secure $2.58 million in state funds, which will be matched with more than two times that amount in federal dollars  -- $5.82 million – to expand screening and counseling for overuse of opioids and other drugs like heroine and methamphetamine, to get people the help they need as early as possible.”

Senator McGuire has officially requested that the budget committee advance an allocation from the state’s General Fund to cover the costs of this data-driven screening program. This would include allocating $8.4 million ($2.58 million from the State General Fund/$5.82 million in matching dollars from the Federal Financial Participation). 

The screening dollars, if secured, would be invested with the Department of Health Care Services (DHCS) to expand the Medi-Cal benefit for Alcohol Misuse, Screening and Counseling (AMSC) to include screening for overuse of opioids and other illicit drugs.

Routine screenings for excessive alcohol use in California, followed by brief intervention or counseling and referral to treatment has helped countless Californians get the help they need to combat their addiction. The program, Screening Brief Intervention, Referral and Treatment (SBIRT), has been in place in emergency rooms, public hospitals and federally qualified health centers across California for 15 years focused solely on alcohol. Now, Senator McGuire wants to take this same results driven process and apply it to opioid use and methamphetamine.

“Expanding screening to detect use of opioids and other drugs is an important step in combatting our current crisis and to save lives. We need to build on the state’s ongoing commitment to high-quality drug treatment resources for all Californians by allocating $8.4 million to implement drug screening and referrals for all ages,” Senator McGuire stated in the letter. 

This vital request is supported by the County Behavioral Health Directors Association of California.

A copy of the budget request letter is attached.