Durbin Highlights Impact Of Community Health Centers In Fight Against Opioid Epidemic During National Health Center Week

NORMAL – During National Health Center Week, U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) today visited Chestnut Health System and discussed the important role that community health centers and the Affordable Care Act (ACA) play in our communities, especially when it comes to the fight against the opioid addiction epidemic. Community health centers improve access to affordable, high-quality health care in underserved urban and rural communities by integrating primary health care with pharmacy, mental health and substance abuse treatment, and oral health care services.

“Community health centers like Chestnut are on the front lines of our fight against the opioid epidemic. In 2015, there were 1,835 overdose deaths in Illinois – more than the number of traffic deaths and homicides combined. And today, only 12 percent of Illinoisans who need substance abuse treatment actually receive it,” said Durbin. “Chestnut is a state leader in providing medication-based treatments to those struggling with addiction. But we must do more to help. Republican efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act would have cut off access to addiction treatment and thrown millions of Americans off their health insurance. I was relieved that the Senate rejected these repeal bills on a bipartisan basis. Now we must come together and improve our health care system so that our great community health centers, like Chestnut, can do what they do best—provide the right care at the right time to those in need.”  

The ACA made mental health and substance use disorder care an essential benefit for all individual market plans. Because of the ACA, Medicaid expanded to 650,000 low-income adults in Illinois, nearly one-third of whom have a mental health or substance use disorder. Without Medicaid, these individuals would be more likely to end up in emergency rooms or the criminal justice system – driving up costs for state and local budgets. 

Since his first day in office, President Trump has been sabotaging American’s health care system. He issued an Executive Order instructing federal agencies not to enforce the ACA, cut the 2018 open enrollment period in half, and cancelled advertisements and outreach that helped people sign up for insurance – all of which will make it more difficult for people to sign up for health insurance next year on the individual market. And he continues to threaten to stop making cost-sharing reduction (CSR) payments, which help make premiums more affordable for more than 156,000 Illinoisans. Insurance companies participating in Illinois’ individual marketplace have cited this uncertainty for proposed 2018 premium increases, and Senators Durbin and Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) wrote to the Illinois Department of Insurance last week urging the agency to take commonsense steps to protect Illinois consumers from the Trump Administration’s sabotage.  Yesterday, the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office announced that if President Trump stops making CSR payments, premiums will spike by 20 percent, insurance companies will leave the marketplace, one million more Americans will be uninsured in 2018, and the deficit will increase by $194 billion over a decade.

In Illinois, 60 percent of health center patients are covered by Medicaid.  The various Republican health care repeal bills would have jeopardized this care by ending the Medicaid expansion for 650,000 Illinoisans and converting Medicaid into a capped amount—a $40 billion cut over a decade to Illinois.  It also would have thrown between 16 and 32 million people off their health coverage, including one million Illinoisans; raised premiums 20 to 100 percent; crippled protections for people with pre-existing conditions, including undermining Essential Health Benefits; defunded Planned Parenthood; cut $600 to $900 billion from Medicaid; and provided hundreds of billions of dollars in tax breaks to large corporations, millionaires, and billionaires.

Illinois community health centers provide primary health care services to approximately 1.3 million Illinois residents at 51 health centers with 360 treatment sites in medically underserved areas throughout the state. Illinois community health centers employ over 7,600 individuals, equaling a payroll of more than $508 million. They also inject approximately $800 million in operating expenditures into their communities, resulting in an overall economic impact of $1.48 billion and overall employment of 11,700. A recent study found that Illinois community health centers save 27 percent in total spending per Medicaid patient compared to non-health center providers.

In May, Durbin introduced the bipartisan Medicaid Coverage for Addiction Recovery Expansion (Medicaid CARE) Act, which would expand access to substance abuse treatment for thousands of Medicaid beneficiaries in Illinois by lifting the outdated Medicaid Institutions for Mental Disease (IMD) Exclusion, which limits Medicaid coverage for residential addiction treatment to facilities with less than 16 beds. 

Chestnut Health System offers inpatient and outpatient addiction treatment services, including programs that provide medication-assisted treatment. Chestnut is partnering with the Dixon Police Department and Lee County Sheriff’s Department on their Safe Passage Initiative to help those facing addiction access treatment services.  By integrating mental health and substance abuse treatment with primary care services, Chestnut is able to improve care coordination and disease management, and has recently received $2.7 million in federal funding for such programs.