My opponent proposed a prescription tax to fund opiate addiction. This means that people legitimately prescribed narcotic pain medication such as cancer patients, those receiving post-operative medication, and legal outpatient medications would pay for all those who have addiction and receive recovery services. Not only would it add to the cost of healthcare, it is an unfair tax on a small segment of the population dealing with a serious health problem.
He also voted against expanded coverage making sure healthcare was available to all Idahoans. Experts say that coverage, even Medicaid coverage, is a much better choice for funding drug use disorders.
A decade ago, Joe Stegner and I worked on a group planning revisions of Idaho’s mental health system. That effort faded as the Great Recession took hold. Now, most of the acute mental health crisis care is given by law enforcement, often in jails.
In order to do the best job, we need a spectrum of services, from drug prevention to case identification and diagnosis, treatment including appropriate hospitalization and chronic outpatient care, emergency services (like our crisis centers), and yes, recovery programs.
The best thing for improved mental health and substance use disorders is to have coverage. The most useful, single best action would be for the State to expand Medicaid coverage. I have worked for that for years and continue to do so.
More resources are needed for drug treatment but also for mental health services. A prescription tax is an inadequate and short-sighted. Healthcare coverage is better and fairer.
-John Rusche, MD