Major Grant Awarded for Rural Substance Use Treatment Center in Salida

Major Grant Awarded for Rural Substance Use Treatment Center in Salida

Special to Daily Record (February 14, 2020)

“A 13,000 square mile donut hole, smack dab across the middle of our state,” is how Brian Turner, CEO of Solvista Health, describes the gap in appropriate behavioral health services for a massive swath of Colorado.

“Our state ranks in the top 10 nationally for alarming rates of drug and alcohol problems, and yet we are also among the highest for unmet treatment needs,” says Turner.  “We have never had the appropriate higher levels of care available in rural Colorado and people are forced to travel all the way to Denver, Colorado Springs or Grand Junction for help. It’s time that changes.”

Turner announced that Solvista Health was recently awarded a $700,000 grant to help build a comprehensive Regional Assessment Center to treat mental health and substance use needs in the region. The grant is made possible through Colorado House Bill 19-1287, which passed last legislative session at the Colorado State Capitol and targeted treatment in rural and frontier counties. The bill was crafted by the Opioid and Substance Use Disorder Interim Committee of the legislature and had broad bipartisan support, including passing the State Senate by unanimous vote.

“Fighting for rural Colorado is a constant battle here at the Capitol,” said Representative Jim Wilson. “It is great to win one once in a while, particularly one of this magnitude, for my community.”

The award was made by AspenPointe MSO and the Colorado Office of Behavioral Health, who are championing an infusion of resources to tackle the opioid epidemic and substance abuse statewide. The grant will specifically support the development of a withdrawal management and recovery center for substance abuse.

“While Solvista Health and other providers have been working hard to expand a variety of treatment options in the region, this will be the first of its kind providing a higher level of care,” said Turner. “Research shows an undeniable connection between substance use, mental health, and overall health. So, we have teamed up with our local partners and community leaders to design an option that will provide an integrated, comprehensive approach.”

Solvista Health is hoping to raise $6.5 million to realize the full vision of a Regional Assessment Center that will serve Chaffee, Custer, Fremont, Lake, Park, and surrounding counties. The facility will be located on the Heart of the Rockies Regional Medical Center campus in Salida and is an example of the growing collaboration between the two nonprofit organizations. The cooperation doesn’t end there. Planning has been underway largely through the Region 13 Substance Abuse Regional Coalition (SARC) and will continue with increased engagement and feedback from community members.

“We are thrilled to be a partner in this effort alongside so many others,” said Dave Henson, Executive Director for Chaffee County Department of Human Services. “Over 50 public and private organizations signed on in support of this grant proposal across the region. We recognize the power of collaboration and share the goal of making our communities a healthy, thriving place for everyone to live, work and play.”

Construction is expected to begin this summer with a goal of opening by early 2021. Tax-deductible contributions can be made by contacting gwenf@solvistahealth.org.

Iowa Schmiowa!

Iowa Schmiowa!

I don’t know about you, but I can’t get enough of the news about the Democratic presidential primary. So much is at stake for the future of our country, and I’m feeling very invested in putting forward a candidate who can defeat Donald Trump and get our government back into the business of solving problems and making life better for the hard-working familes across our country.

Every Democrat on the debate stage is more qualified and has more integrity than the current occupant of the White House, and come November, I’ll be proud to support any one of them. But I really, REALLY, hope it’s Senator Elizabeth Warren.

Here’s why.

  1. Beating Trump is the #1 priority, and I believe Elizabeth Warren is the most electable candidate. She is an incredibly powerful communicator, and she speaks directly to the people who are feeling most left behind–including those in the midwestern swing states.
  2. Her policy ideas are bold, thoughtful, and thorough. Seriously. Just read any one of her plans. She certainly took some heat in the press over elements of her health care plan, but I read it twice and I can tell you she knows her stuff. She recognizes we cannot solve the big problems without disrupting the status quo, and she also establishes realistic steps and timelines.
  3. She has a real theory of change that starts with tackling corruption in Washington. Debate moderators have asked numerous times how candidates would accomplish their policy goals if elected, and I find Warren’s theory most compelling. That’s because I’ve experienced the power of special interests first hand. There are days at the state capitol where I can’t walk down the hall without bumping into a dozen insurance lobbyists, a dozen hospital lobbyists, and a dozen pharma lobbyists. And most of the time, their efforts are directed towards blocking progressive change.
  4. Elizabeth Warren is a fighter for regular people who are just trying to get good jobs, support their families, and afford health care, housing, child care, and higher education. After four years of Trump, that’s what we need in the White House.

I could go on, but instead I’ll just ask you to reply to this email and tell me about the candidate you support and why. And if you share my admiration for Elizabeth Warren, would you sign up to volunteer for her campaign?

The Iowa caucus is Monday, February 3rd. But before we see the results of the New Hampshire primary at 7:00pm EST on Tuesday, February 11th, you will likely already have your Colorado presidential primary ballot in hand!

That’s right, we have a presidential primary in Colorado this year! Ballots are mailed out starting February 10th and are due back by 7:00pm on Tuesday, March 3rd.

FUN FACT: Because of a bill we passed last year, 17 year olds who will be 18 by the November 3rd General Election will be eligible to vote in primaries and caucuses this year! Register to vote here!

Keep in mind we’ll still have precinct caucuses on Saturday, March 7th. Delegates elected at caucus will participate in the nomination of all state and local candidates (including me!), and those who go on to the state convention will elect delegates to the national convention based on the results of the presidential primary.

With that, I hope you all have a wonderful and warm winter weekend in Colorado! And don’t forget to reply to tell me about who you’re excited to support to be our next President of the United States of America!

Thanks,
Chris

County redistricting bill seeks to avoid appearance of partisan gerrymandering

County redistricting bill seeks to avoid appearance of partisan gerrymandering

By Marianne Goodland (January 27, 2020)

In 2018, voters said “enough” to the potential for partisan gerrymandering at the state and congressional level.

They approved, by better than 2:1 margins, Amendments Y and Z, which set up independent commissions, to be comprised of Republicans, Democrats and unaffiliated voters, who would handle the creation of new congressional (Y) and legislative (Z) district maps after the 2020 Census.

So who draws districts for county commissioners? As it turns out, it’s the commissioners themselves.

Assistant House Majority Leader Chris Kennedy, D-Lakewood, and Rep. Colin Larson, R-Littleton, think copying the system set up for Y and Z is a good idea, and that forms the basis for House Bill 1073, which will be heard in the House State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee on Thursday.

The bill is drawing strong opposition from some of Colorado’s counties due to concerns it is an unfunded mandate.

And Kennedy admits it is.

The bill as it currently stands would apply only to the state’s largest counties that have five commissioners: Arapahoe, El Paso and Weld. An additional seven — those with populations that exceed 70,000 — could eventually be included, including Boulder, Jefferson and Mesa, if those counties choose to go to five commissioners (they all have three now, but some are considering going to five).

The only large counties that would be exempt: Broomfield and Denver, which are combined city/county but are governed by city councils, not county commissions.

Under the bill, a 7-member independent commission, assisted by nonpartisan staff, would take charge of drawing district maps. The commission would be made up of two Democrats, two Republicans and three unaffiliated voters, and maps would be approved by a simple majority. Kennedy said creating the 12-member commissions set up in Y and Z would be too unwieldy.

The commissions would use criteria in this order:

  • equal population and the Voting Rights Act;
  • communities of interest, political subdivisions and compactness;
  • competitiveness; and
  • no protection for incumbents.

Under the bill, the maps commission would meet in public meetings and the maps would be subject to judicial review.

Another provision of the bill would change current state law to allow for larger precincts, up to 4,000 people each, to address another problem: constant redrawing of precinct maps every time the population surges.

In Jefferson County, that’s meant redrawing precinct maps every two years, which is allowed under the law, for whenever a precinct exceeds 2,000 people.

“It’s the Wild West,” Kennedy recently told Colorado Politics, when asked why he wants to change the system.

“When it comes to the way counties draw their maps, the only rule is equal population and the Voting Rights Act,” he explained. That means the county commissioners are drawing their own districts. In most of the state, it’s not a big deal, he said, since the three commissioners run county-wide but have to live in the districts they represent. Kennedy said there’s no evidence that the system for drawing districts has been abused, so his bill is intended to be proactive.

In the counties with five commissioners, either home rule or one larger than 70,000 people, there are three options for how commissioners are selected. It’s either five who are elected by the voters in the districts in which they live (Arapahoe and El Paso), five where commissioners must live in their districts but are elected county-wide (Adams), or three who live in the districts they represent and two more who are at-large (Weld).

Jefferson County has three commissioners but talk in the county around going to five has been around for years, Kennedy said. But going to five has also raised concerns about gerrymandering.

Kennedy advocates for five commissioners, all required to live and be elected from the district they represent. Given the size of Jefferson County, “you can’t possibly get around” to the whole county, he said. In order to help Jeffco go to five, Kennedy said he wanted to offer them the protection against gerrymandering.

Kennedy believes larger counties will have the staffing, and even some have GIS software that can handle the map-drawing process.

“I believe because we have unanimous support” for state and congressional redistricting (from the General Assembly in 2018), it makes sense to model county redistricting in the same way, he said.

Kennedy and Larson met with stakeholders last week, including representatives from Arapahoe, Boulder, El Paso and Jefferson counties as well as from the County Clerks Association.

“This restores faith in the system” and matches what voters intended with Y and Z, Larson told the group.

Arapahoe County spokesman Luc Hatlestad told Colorado Politics that the county’s commissioners have already voted to oppose the bill, citing chiefly its unfunded mandate as well as concerns about the amount of time such a process would require. They estimated it would cost about $21,000 to pay the retired county judges who would choose the mapping commission members.

In fact, the bill’s fiscal note comes in with a much larger figure: $75,000 to $135,000 per county, but that also includes paying for staff time, computer equipment and software, legal expenses and travel and per diem costs.

Read the full story on ColoradoPolitics.com.

State says hospitals raking in record profits with no end in sight to cost-shifting

State says hospitals raking in record profits with no end in sight to cost-shifting

By Marianne Goodland (January 23, 2020)

The Department of Health Care Policy and Financing released a report Thursday that accused several Front Range “mega” hospital systems of price-gouging Colorado consumers to fatten their own wallets. 

The announcement came one day before a Joint Budget Committee hearing on costs for a public option plan and the state’s 2019 reinsurance program, which are expected to exceed initial estimates by hundreds of millions of dollars.

And at least one lawmaker in Thursday’s news conference used the time to strike back at the hospitals and others who are running a six-figure ad campaign decrying aspects of the public option plan released last November.

The HCPF report, an analysis of Colorado hospital cost-shifting, claimed hospitals, primarily large for-profit and non-profit hospitals in the Front Range, have failed to reduce health care costs, despite state efforts going back more than a decade to reduce the burden of uncompensated care. The report is a final one that follows a draft report from January 2019

Cost-shifting has long been blamed as one reason for the rising cost of health care. It takes place when a hospital shifts uncompensated costs from those who can’t pay for their health care to those with private insurance, which Lt. Gov. Dianne Primavera said Thursday drives up health care premiums for everyone. 

But since the hospital provider fee went into place in 2009, the costs for uninsured health care have dropped by half, according to the report. Hospitals have reduced their losses by $385 million, the report said. 

According to a 2009 letter from the Colorado Hospital Association, “By increasing hospital reimbursement rates and covering the uninsured, we will reduce the rate of rising healthcare costs,” the letter said. 

The exact opposite has happened, according to Primavera and HCPF Executive Director Kim Bimestefer. Hospital per-patient profits are soaring, from $500 per patient in 2009 to three times that amount in 2018. “Despite significant reductions in uncompensated care and significant increases in Medicaid and Medicare” provider payments, “hospitals are persistently increasing the price of care,” according to a fact sheet distributed Thursday.

House Assistant Majority Leader Chris Kennedy, D-Lakewood, at one point held up a mailer that’s part of a six-figure ad campaign by the Partnership for America’s Health Care Future and Colorado’s Health Care Future on the public option proposal. “It makes my blood boil when I received this in my mailbox, saying contact your state legislator to protect the status quo…. This came out of your premium dollars!” he thundered. 

That campaign is backed by the Colorado Hospital Association and health insurers and targets a public option proposal that they claim will shift $1.5 billion in health care costs over a five-year period to Coloradans who have their own health insurance.

Colorado’s Health Care Future also claims the public option will jeopardize access to health care in rural hospitals and critical care facilities and could result in 13 rural hospitals closing.

Read the full story at ColoradoPolitics.com

Find more coverage at DenverPost.com and Colorado Sun.com 


Another year, another chance to do some good

Another year, another chance to do some good

Happy New Year!

I’m always excited about the new opportunities a new year brings. Last year, we made remarkable progress on so many policies to help the people of Colorado. This year, we’re set to continue that progress with a twist – it’s an election year, so the temperature’s going to be even hotter than last year.

That said, I have a great deal of confidence in my colleagues. We showed that we’re willing to do the work, researching tough topics and engaging with stakeholders in diverse communities and across the political spectrum to create the best policies. As a result, 95% of the bills signed into law by Governor Polis last year passed with bipartisan support.

It should be no surprise, then, that the first bill we introduced this session has bipartisan sponsorship in both the House and the Senate. There has been a growing consensus about the response to the developing teen vaping epidemic, and while we passed good legislation to empower local governments to regulate tobacco retailers last year, we need to do more. I’ve been part of a working group all summer/fall that successfully reached bipartisan agreement on how to increase the purchase age to 21 across Colorado with appropriate enforcement of retailers and prohibitions on direct-to-consumer online sales. Check out House Bill 20-1001.

The interim also kept me quite busy with two interim committees: the Opioid & Other Substance Use Disorders (SUD) committee and the Investor-Owned Utilities (IOU) committee. I’ll be continuing that work this session by carrying several bills through the legislative process. For the SUD committee, I’m carrying five bills that continue the effort started in 2017 to curb Colorado’s opioid epidemic and build a functional treatment/recovery infrastructure. I’m particularly proud of a provision in the prevention bill that will require insurance companies to cover alternatives to opioids with limited copays.

On the IOU committee, I was excited to once again immerse myself into renewable energy policy – a topic on which my predecessor, Rep. Max Tyler, led the state for his seven years. I will be working on a few bills in the energy policy space this year.

Much of my work this session will continue to focus on health care costs. I’m so proud of what we accomplished last session, but costs are still out of control and we need to do more. I am very involved in conversations about continuing the reinsurance program and establishing a public option – both of which are coming under extreme pressure from hospitals and insurance companies, who have invested some of their multi-billion-dollar profits into TV and mail ad campaigns over the last few months. While these stakeholders may have important feedback on how we change policy, we can’t let their desire to protect the status quo trump the needs of the people who are struggling to afford the high cost of health care (not to mention the high costs of housing, higher education, child care, and more).

My first bill, however, is about protecting our democracy.Colorado led the nation in 2018 by passing two constitutional amendments to reform the redistricting process for congressional and state legislative districts. The districts will now be drawn by nonpartisan staff according to unbiased criteria, approved by independent commissions, and subject to clear rules about public meetings and judicial review. However, for county commissioner districts, there are no such rules. In most cases, this isn’t a huge problem because most Colorado counties elect their commissioners countywide. Still, in home-rule counties and/or counties larger than 70,000 people that have increased from three to five commissioners of which at least some are elected by individual districts, there is a risk of partisan gerrymandering. House Bill 20-1073 will reform this system by following the model of Amendments Y & Z.

It feels like there’s plenty more to say, but I think I’ve written enough words for one newsletter. More soon. Until then, please feel free to reach out about anything you need this session! And if you’d like to schedule a time to visit the Capitol, please contact my legislative aide, Jakki Davison, at cohd23aide@gmail.com

Thanks,
Chris

P.S.  Thanks to all of you who donated food and/or socks at our November town hall! We helped the Action Center break a world record when the collected 37,556 pairs of socks on one day!

Still optimistic after all these years

Still optimistic after all these years

It’s hard to believe this whirlwind of a year is nearly over. At the end of the landmark 2019 legislative session, I had to take a step back before I could fully appreciate everything we accomplished.

We passed legislation to lower the cost of health care; invest in education, transportation, and affordable housing; accelerate our transition to clean energy; make our schools safer; expand mental health access; reform our criminal justice system; fight the opioid epidemic; expand the rights of every Coloradan, including voting rights, reproductive rights, and rights to self-expression; and protect the clean air, clean water, and beautiful open spaces that make Colorado such a special place to live.

Years like this are why people run for office. When bills become laws and begin to impact people’s lives, we remember that our democratic republic often succeeds at expanding opportunities for people to live better, happier, and healthier lives – as long as we elect the right people.

Even when Americans are subjected to horrifying news nearly every day from the Trump administration, our progress here in Colorado keeps me feeling optimistic about the future.

Next session, we’ll be continuing our work on all of these issues, and believe me, it’s a lot of work. There will be obstacles and setbacks, lies and distortions, and a whole lot of money spent on lobbying and advertising by the defenders of the status quo. As soon as soon as the session ends in early May, my colleagues and I will be hitting the campaign trail again to talk to voters about the work we’ve done and ask for their support so we can keep moving Colorado forward.

On that note, it should be no surprise that I’m running for reelection in 2020! It’s been such an honor to represent the people of House District 23 and to help lead the state as the Assistant Majority Leader of the Colorado House of Representatives. Please join me for a Holiday Happy Hour & Fundraiser on December 17th to celebrate the progress we made for the people of Colorado this year and to prepare for another great year!

Together, we really can change the world for the better. Thank you for doing your part. I’ll certainly keep doing mine.

Legislative committee advances five substance abuse bills

Legislative committee advances five substance abuse bills

By Michael Karlik (October 30th, 2019)

Legislators are eyeing new mandates on providers of healthcare, as laid out in five bills forwarded to the General Assembly on Monday.

The Opioid and Other Substance Use Disorders Study Committee formed in 2017 to review substance-use disorders, medication-assisted treatment and gaps in the system of care.

Bill 1 would limit co-payments that acupuncturists and physical or occupational therapists could charge, as well as requiring insurance carriers to cover acupuncture and physical therapy visits in their plans.

The bill also makes permanent the requirement of opioid prescribers to limit new patients to a seven-day supply and to check with the state’s prescription drug monitoring program before refilling a prescription. Pharmacies upload prescriptions for some categories of medications to the program for providers to check before assigning drugs to patients.

Elsewhere in the package of legislation, insurance companies would be required to cover treatment for substance-use disorders.

Legislators also addressed opioid addiction within the criminal justice system, requiring jails and the Department of Corrections to provide treatment to those with an addiction, and to continue their treatment throughout their incarceration.

For the general population of Colorado, Bill 2 would extend legal protections to people who deliver expired opioid-countering drugs like naloxone, as well as requiring insurance to pay for such drugs if administered in a hospital.

Finally, legislators would direct millions of dollars into a range of programs. Individual placement and support programs would receive $2 million per year. Housing assistance would increase five-fold, to $5 million. A tweak to the definition of child abuse would include any instance of a baby being born affected by alcohol or other substance, unless prescribed. 

“There is not one silver bullet to address the opioid epidemic; it’s a complex, enormous problem,” said Sen. Brittany Pettersen, D-Lakewood, said in a statement. “While today we passed the most impactful package we’ve seen yet, I know that our work isn’t done, and we are committed to continuing the work to address this crisis.”

Deaths due to opioids, either by prescription or heroin, numbered 9.8 per 100,000 Coloradans in 2017. That is nearly a 400% increase from 1999. Methamphetamine deaths were a distant second, and all drug deaths combined placed Colorado slightly below the national average of 21.7 overdose deaths per 100,000 people.

Read Full Story at ColoradoPolitics.com

Thinking Outside The Bottle

By Cory Phare (October 30th, 2019)

When the 72nd Colorado General Assembly launches its legislative session Jan. 8, it will have the opportunity to pass an innovative approach to stemming the opioid crisis: making alternative pain-management treatment as affordable as potentially addictive prescriptions.

On Tuesday, the legislature’s bipartisan Opioid and Substance Use Disorders Interim Study Committee advanced to the house a bill that would force insurers to cover opioid alternatives such as acupuncture, physical and occupational therapy and less-addictive drugs.

“In Colorado, we’re really on the cutting edge here,” said Rep. Chris Kennedy (D-Lakewood), the bill’s sponsor. “There are a lot of leads that people have been following on both the state and federal level, but this is taking it one step further. Rather than making it harder to get opioids, we want to make it easier to get alternative treatments for pain management.”

The committee, on which Kennedy serves as co-chair, is also planning to advance four other bills related to prevention, harm reduction, criminal-justice reform and recovery. This is the committee’s third round of attempting a comprehensive approach to address opioid addiction across the state, Kennedy said.

“This package of bills is unlike others we’ve seen before, both locally and nationally,” he said.

Read Full Story at Red.MSUDenver.edu

My 2019 Endorsements

Ballots were mailed out last week for the 2019 election. For those of you on my list who live outside of Lakewood or Jeffco, the rest of this email may not be very interesting, but you can read my positions on the statewide ballot measures here.

I know I’m a little late in announcing my endorsements for Lakewood City Council and Jeffco School Board, but I moderated a candidate forum last weekend and I decided to wait so that all candidates would feel they were treated fairly. But now that the forum is behind us, here are my 2019 endorsements:

Lakewood City Council
This year has been a contentious one with growth being the central issue on most voters’ minds. The candidates I’m endorsing have all expressed thoughtfulness about this issue. Rather than kneejerk reactions and faux-populist politics, these candidates will work to balance these growth concerns with other priorities like affordability, inclusivity, and sustainability.

Mayor – Adam Paul
Ward 1 – Kyra deGruy
Ward 2 – Sharon Vincent
Ward 3 – Henry Hollender
Ward 4 – Christopher Arlen
Ward 5 – Dana Gutwein

With the right leadership, I believe our city is capable of managing growth the right way while increasing access to affordable housing in the parts of Lakewood that need it the most. And I believe these candidates will truly prioritize sustainability and work to make sure Lakewood is doing it’s part to fight climate change.

There are also two municipal ballot measures in Lakewood this year, and I’m voting yes on both.

2F – I’m voting yes to modernize our trash/recycling system in Lakewood. We can have better service, lower cost, and fewer trash trucks driving up our streets every week if we just choose to work together rather than choosing to have everyone go it alone.

2G – I’m voting yes to give Lakewood future opportunities to create public-private partnerships to expand broadband access.

Jeffco School Board
After some turbulent years, Jeffco voters made a course correction in 2015. Since then, we’ve had a school board focused on working together for the benefit of Jeffco kids. I’m supporting candidates who will keep Jeffco moving forward.

District 3 – Stephanie Schooley
District 4 – Joan Chavez-Lee

Remember, these candidates run district-wide, so you can vote for one candidate in each district.

That’s all for now. Get more information about voting at https://www.jeffco.us/elections, or email me here at any time! Thanks for voting!!

I’m Voting Yes on CC, DD, & 1A

This November, I’m voting Yes on Proposition CC, Yes on Proposition DD, and Yes on Jeffco Question 1A.

Prop CC allows the state to keep revenues above the outdated TABOR formula to increase investments in K-12, higher education, and transportation. This formula is why Colorado is $2500 per kid below the national average in funding our public schools and why we haven’t been able to adequately maintain our transportation infrastructure. While Prop CC doesn’t solve all of our budget woes, it’s a big step in the right direction. Prop CC doesn’t raise tax rates; it just lets us keep what Coloradans have already paid. And we’ll know exactly where the dollars go with an annual, independent audit. Learn more at YesOnPropCC.com.

Prop DD legalizes sports betting in Colorado, imposes a new tax on casino profits, and uses the bulk of the new revenues to fund the Colorado Water Plan. The 2018 Supreme Court decision would have made online sports betting available in Colorado regardless of whether we took action, so it makes sense to allow Colorado businesses to participate and pay taxes on their new profits to fund a critical state priority – the future of our water supply. Learn more at YesOnDD.com.

Jeffco Question 1A is similar to Prop CC but for the county budget instead of the state. If 1A doesn’t pass, the same outdated budget formula will force huge cuts to public safety and other critical county services. And here’s another fun fact. If Prop CC passes, Jeffco will receive over $1M in transportation funding from the state next year – but we won’t get to keep it unless we also pass 1A. This is an example of how badly these budget formulas need to be updated. Learn more at KeepJeffcoSafe.com.

Please email me at chris@kennedy4co.com if you have questions about these ballot measures or anything else!

How copays are contributing to the opioid epidemic in Colorado

How copays are contributing to the opioid epidemic in Colorado

By Anusha Roy (September 30th, 2019)

DENVER — A copay could be the tipping point for someone to become addicted to opioids, depending on a patient’s health insurance, according to Dr. Jonathan Clapp, a pain specialist with Porter Adventist Hospital. He said he’s seen this problem first-hand.

“Say a patient comes into my office, and they have a knee problem that could be addressed with physical therapy. If we could work on strengthening and flexibility, we could fix the problem,” he said. “But because it can sometimes cost $80 out-of-pocket for every physical therapy session, it’s really hard for someone to afford that.”

That’s when doctors get caught between trying to treat pain and not bankrupting their patients, according to Clapp.

“Before we can get other things approved, and wait two or three days in a best-case scenario to get the right medicine, we still had to expose them to these medications, and it may have just ruined their life,” Clapp said. “It’s very hard for us to live with.”

For two years, Clapp reached out to lawmakers to change this, and in the process, he began working with State Rep. Chris Kennedy (D-Lakewood) to work on a potential new law that would change insurance policies in Colorado that are regulated by the state.

Kennedy said one prong of the proposal would work on making non-opioid medication and less-addictive opioid medications more affordable. 

“Oxycodone would probably still be cheaper, but the hope is we are closing the gap,” Kennedy said.

The second prong would include giving the Colorado Division of Insurance the authority to identify other treatments like physical therapy, occupational therapy and acupuncture as good alternatives for pain that might otherwise lead to an opioid prescription. 

The goal, according to Kennedy, is to require insurance companies to make these kinds of treatments more affordable, including limiting out-of-pocket costs and insurance deductibles.

Kennedy said physical therapy is considered an essential health benefit under the Affordable Care Act, so it’s offered in every Colorado insurance plan right now. but the concern is the cost.

Read Full Story at 9News.com