Advocates Seek Commitment to Improve Substance Abuse Treatment

June 23, 2014

Hartford- State Senator Joe Markley (R-16), Ranking Member of the General Assembly’s Human Services Committee and member of the Program Review and Investigations Committee, today called for a renewed commitment to improving substance abuse treatment in Connecticut.

“Despite many years of hard work advocating for improvements in our care system, the governor chose to veto key legislation aimed at closing the gaps that severely impact treatment. Instead of moving forward with efforts to improve access to quality substance abuse care, this veto is a step backwards,” said Senator Markley.

On May 29, Governor Malloy vetoed PA 14-58 — HB 5373, legislation that would have required managed care organizations and health insurers to report more information on substance abuse treatment to the state Insurance Department. The bill received unanimous support in both the Senate and House of Representatives this year.

Senator Markley and fellow advocates who supported the bill joined together at the State Capitol on the day of the required veto session to ask legislators to make substance abuse treatment a priority in the next legislative session.

“I hope that Connecticut lawmakers will pledge their commitment to address the problems faced by those who seek treatment for substance abuse and their families. We should be doing everything we can to improve access to healthcare. This year, the legislature stood together unanimously to support these efforts. I am saddened to see our hard work brushed aside, but I have faith in future efforts to improve transparency so we can address the gaps in our healthcare system,” said Markley.

Karen Zaorski, a Wolcott resident, also stood with Senator Markley to ask for a renewed commitment from the state legislature. Zaorski lost her son after a cocaine overdose in 2010 and has worked as an advocate for improving access to quality substance use treatment and recovery support services for individuals suffering from the disease of addiction. She has represented both Wolcott Crossroads, Inc. and CT Turning to Youth and Families when testifying in support of HB 5373. She was also a leading force in asking the legislature to initiate a study in 2012, which led to the writing of this year’s legislation.

“We need to do more to make sure people who suffer from substance use disorders and their families have access to quality care. I ask every member of the legislature to not forget about this issue and the thousands of people it effects every day in Connecticut,” said Zaorski.

Zaorski also noted that while Connecticut is facing an overdose epidemic, many people are still denied coverage for appropriate care by their insurance companies. She also said that while the state moved forward with legislation this year to allow anyone to administer Naloxone (also known as Narcan) to reverse an opiate overdose, there is no legislation in place to improve access to treatment after such a drastic measure.

“What happens once an overdose is reversed if a person cannot get into an appropriate treatment program? We are moving forward in some areas, but not all. We need a more comprehensive approach to improve substance use treatment,” said Zaorski.

Carol Cruz, a member of the Milford Prevention Council who is also involved with CT Turning to Youth and Families, also spoke at today’s press conference. Cruz spoke about her experience as a person in long-term recovery from substance use.

The legislation vetoed this year was based on recommendations made by the Legislative Program Review and Investigations Committee in their report Access to Substance Use Treatment for Insured Youth: Phase I (December 2012) and Phase II (June 2013). These reports concluded, among many findings, that the Connecticut Insurance Department does not sufficiently oversee behavioral health care coverage, check that fully-insured plans comply with all aspects of the federal parity laws, or require fully-insured plans to make initial coverage decisions using practitioners and criteria that would be the most appropriate.