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Dr. Ryan Keay: Medicaid Plays a Crucial Role in Alleviating the Opioid Epidemic

The medical director of Providence St. Joseph's emergency department on healthcare in the current climate
| Updated: November 19, 2019
 
 
  • Emergency department of Providence St. Joseph Health in Everett

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Providence Regional Medical Center Everett has the busiest emergency department in Washington state. Ryan Keay, M.D., medical director of the hospital’s ED, took time recently to discuss Medicaid and emergency care for opioid dependency and overdoses.

“If the patients being treated for opioid addiction were to lose their Medicaid benefits, it would be simply devastating. The Providence ED is able to transition patients away fromopioids to other options, and many of our patients would lose access to those options without Medicaid,” Dr. Keayexplains. She emphasized that adults with Medicaid coverage are more likely to receive this life-saving treatment than those who are uninsured.

At Providence St. Joseph Health, we believe health is a human right and we know that health coverage is a vital part of living the healthiest life possible. Medicaid is often overlooked as the primary source of health insurance in the U.S., covering about 74 million Americans. It helps alleviate the financial burden that health care costs can create for people, including many vulnerable populations such as seniors, children, veterans and individuals with disabilities. Medicaid also covers millions of people who are employed, but do not have health insurance through their jobs and do not earn enough to purchase coverage.


Dr. Keay

Among the many highly vulnerable groups Medicaid supports are those with substance use disorders. The Medicaid program is one of the largest providers of addiction treatment in the U.S., and it covers nearly 4 in 10 non-elderly adults dealing with opioid dependency. In recent years, Medicaid has enabled access to treatment services and saved many lives that might have otherwise been lost to opioid dependency. Medicaid programs vary from state to state, but in Washington state coverage extends from emergency to community-based treatment.

During 2017, more than 2.1 million people in the United States had an opioid-use disorder, and 47,600 overdose deaths involved opioids. The opioid epidemic is a major public health crisis that is affecting entire communities, and Medicaid plays a crucial role in providing access to early intervention and treatment.

During 2019, Dr. Keay has been able to direct almost 80 patients per month to treatment resources in the community. “Addiction is lifelong, and the biggest improvement we see during treatment takes place within the crucial detox timeframe,” says Dr. Keay. Medicaid supports programs, counseling groups and services that are part of inpatient and outpatient treatment, as well as medications and therapies.

Asked about one message she’d like to share, Dr. Keay highlighted the importance of receiving consistent, quality care for opioid addiction – the kind Medicaid is currently covering for so many. Maintaining access to these services and support will not only save lives, it will help our communities recover from the scourge of opioid addiction.



Learn more at future.psjhealth.org

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