The urgency of the opioid addiction crisis appears to be swaying some past political opponents of moves to expand methadone treatment services. Indiana legislators in this year's session lifted a ban on the establishment of new methadone clinics in the state—a policy that has stood for most of the last 17 years. The new law also allows the state to use Medicaid funding for methadone treatment and other services targeting opioid-dependent individuals.
The News and Tribune newspaper in Jeffersonville, Ind., reported this month that a longtime supporter of the past ban on new methadone clinics, State Sen. Patricia Miller, agreed to forward the new legislation this year in her role as the Senate's public health chair. “My concern has been that it gets people off illegal addiction and into legal addiction,” Miller told the newspaper in reference to methadone treatment.
The state has around a dozen methadone clinics currently in operation, and the new legislation will allow up to five new centers by 2018. There are several conditions attached to the establishment of new clinics. They must be located in communities that lack such services at present, and they must be associated with a hospital or community behavioral health organization.
This latest development in Indiana likely comes as welcome news to methadone advocates nationally who wage a continuing battle to argue for the effectiveness of their services, despite widespread research evidence backing the treatment for opioid addiction. In one of the most watched policy developments this year, the governor of Maine has been seeking to end public funding for methadone service in that state and to shift publicly supported clients to buprenorphine treatment.
The only time when Indiana previously lifted the ban on new clinic operations since it was imposed in 1998 occurred in 2006, when a rural community mental health center was allowed to begin offering methadone treatment in response to a growing heroin problem.
This time, political leaders in the state say a rise in new HIV cases, particularly in the rural southern Indiana community of Scott County, has driven the move to initiate a stronger response using the medication-assisted treatment option.