A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Amanda Newton: Kentucky legislation (HB 389) will expand access to addiction treatment

Addiction is a tragic and heavy-handed disease, affecting individuals of all ages, races, occupations and income levels. And as anyone who has been impacted by addiction can tell you, the decision to seek recovery is never an easy one.

To make matters worse, the treatment system can be difficult to navigate, leaving Kentuckians overwhelmed and discouraged.


In many cases, this is enough to deter patients from pursuing treatment altogether. According to data from the American Medical Association, 89 percent of patients who need addiction treatment do not receive it.

Given the severity of Kentucky’s addiction crisis, we must make a concerted effort to remove barriers to treatment and expand access to the recovery services people need to address their substance use disorders. Fortunately, legislation has been filed this year in the General Assembly to do just that.

Everyone’s journey to recovery looks a bit different, and for those who have decided to use medication-assisted treatment, multiple options are available. The FDA has approved three medications to treat substance use disorder: buprenorphine, methadone and naltrexone. House Bill 389, filed by Rep. Kimberly Moser (R-Taylor Mill), removes prior authorization requirements for treatments containing any of those three medications.

Prior authorization requirements can delay Kentuckians from accessing the treatments prescribed by their physicians for days or even weeks. When it comes to drug and alcohol addiction, that window of time can easily be the difference between life and death.

As Chief Operating Officer of Renew Recovery, an addiction treatment program with locations in Louisville, Georgetown, London and Crestview Hills, I have witnessed clients experience barriers to accessing addiction medicine. In rural Kentucky, where money is tight and treatment is sparse, a client was paying $400 out-of-pocket for his addiction medication after his prior authorization request had been denied multiple times. The request did eventually go through, but for a time, the client was forced to choose between medication and other basic needs—something no Kentuckian should have to experience.

Prior authorizations also demand a great deal of resources from physicians, pharmacists and medical staff who already face significant administrative burdens. HB 389 will allow health care professionals to spend less time filing unnecessary paperwork and more time delivering the individualized, patient-centered care that’s needed to help people achieve lasting recovery.

During the 2019 session, Rep. Moser’s legislation to eliminate prior authorizations on medication-assisted treatment passed unanimously in the House, but unfortunately, was never called in the Senate. This year, we must ensure HB 389 passes the finish line. Without it, more Kentuckians and our communities will continue to suffer.

Some insurance companies have already voluntarily lifted prior authorizations for medication-assisted treatment, and several states have recently passed legislation like HB 389. We have seen how removing this barrier reduces administrative burdens on providers, decreases overall costs and improves patient outcomes. It’s time for the Commonwealth to follow suit.

House Bill 284 is another piece of legislation moving through the General Assembly that encourages addiction treatment among one of Kentucky’s most at-risk populations for relapse: those on probation. Under HB 284, individuals who successfully complete an approved drug treatment program will be eligible for credits to reduce their time on probation.

Kentucky has been hit hard by the addiction crisis, and even if you haven’t been impacted directly, you likely know someone who has. When we pass legislation that gets more people into treatment, it benefits us all through improved health outcomes, lower health care costs, a stronger workforce and economic growth and safer, healthier environments.

Community leaders and advocacy groups from across the state have already voiced their support of both House Bill 389 and House Bill 284. Now, the General Assembly needs to listen and act! The more difficult we make it to access addiction medication, the greater chance that people will relapse, or worse, lose their lives to drugs or alcohol. Patient care can no longer be compromised.

Amanda Newton is Chief Operating Officer and Chief Marketing Officer of Renew Recovery. She has worked in behavioral health care field since 1998.

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  1. revathi says:

    Thank you for this article. You can Beat Your Addiction With Meditation

  2. Falguni says:

    Addiction treatment programs can only be successful if they are administered the right way, with empathy and expertise.

  3. Aliyah Heidi says:

    If you suffer from drug addiction or alcoholism then you know how it tears families apart and ruins lives.

Reply to Falguni Cancel Reply