Medicaid expanding acupuncture to combat opioid epidemic - WFMJ.com News weather sports for Youngstown-Warren Ohio

Medicaid expanding acupuncture to combat opioid epidemic

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COLUMBUS, Ohio -

Beginning with the new year, an alternative pain management method will be expanded under Ohio's Medicaid program, in an effort to curb the reliance on opioid painkillers. 

An amendment to Ohio's Medicaid Covered Services will change the way that patients can use acupuncture treatment for pain management. 

One year ago, Ohio Medicaid began covering acupuncture services if the treatment was done by a physician. 

However, a new expansion, signed in July by Governor John Kasich will allow Medicaid patients to receive acupuncture treatment by licensed non-physician acupuncturists. 

In 2016 alone, more than 631,000,000 doses of opioid painkillers were distributed across the state of Ohio. 

According to the Ohio Department of Health, an Ohioan dies every two hours from an unintentional drug overdose, 63% of those who die from unintentional overdose had a prescription for a controlled substance within the past year.

Ohio's prescription guidelines suggest that doctors should try, whenever possible, to try alternative healthcare methods such as chiropractic care, acupuncture, physical therapy, and many others. 

Earlier this year, the American College of Physicians issued a report finding that acupuncture was more successful in clinical trials for treating certain back pain and ailments like migraines than the use of opioid painkillers. 

According to the Ohio Association of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine, Ohio is the first state in the Midwest to provide Medicaid recipients access to covered acupuncture benefits.

"As rates of addiction to, and deaths from, prescription opioids such as oxycodone, hydrocodone, and methadone continue to rise, awareness and incorporation of effective, non-pharmacological, non-invasive therapies like acupuncture is more important than ever," said Kory Ward-Cook, Ph.D., CAE, Chief Executive Officer of the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and  Oriental Medicine. 

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