How State Health Agencies Can Address the Opioid Epidemic

November 29, 2017

States play an important role in combating opioid misuse. In October, the Medicaid Evidence-based Decisions (MED) project, a program run by the Center for Evidence-based Policy (Center), held a special meeting for state Medicaid policymakers, with support from the Milbank Memorial Fund, to share policies and practices to curb opioid abuse. The meeting agenda covered options within Medicaid, within the justice system, best practices in treatment, and ways to coordinate across jurisdictions.

During regular meetings, MED, a self-governing collaboration of state Medicaid agencies and their partners, provides policymakers with the tools and resources they need to make evidence-based decisions. For this meeting, MED participants were encouraged to invite state partners, including public health officers, corrections staff, substance use treatment directors, or others.

“Normally each state is allotted two travel spots per conference and they typically bring Medicaid staff, so this was a unique opportunity for non-Medicaid staff to attend and collaborate with their Medicaid agency partners,” said Pam Curtis, director of the Center. “The goals of this collaborative meeting were for participants to return to their home state with at least one identified mechanism for intrastate coordination on opioid issues and to advance state efforts to address the opioid epidemic.”

Meeting sessions focused on developing a comprehensive strategy across agencies. Participants heard from experts in drug enforcement, public health, and state health services. There was discussion about best practices for collaborative approaches. Attendees discussed interagency strategies within state and local government—and also heard from states with interagency strategies in place about what is working. The Fund will publish an issue brief based on the meeting in early 2018.