On Sunday, June 25, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) hosted a press conference at St. Vincent Charity Medical Center to stand against the Senate’s draft bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act. The repeal bill eliminates Medicaid expansion and includes additional cuts to Medicaid, a vital tool in addressing the opioid addiction crisis in Ohio.
The press conference, which was attended by WKYC-TV, The Plain Dealer and WKSU, featured testimony from Senator Brown, Sister Judith Ann Karam CSA, congregational leader of the Sisters of Charity of St. Augustine, Dr. Ted Parran Jr., associate medical director of Rosary Hall and patient advocate Brittany Shartz, among others.
“This issue is right at the core of who we are as a Catholic hospital and as a hospital right in the heart of the city. The reason St. Vincent Charity Medical Center is here is to provide health care to the people in this community, there is no greater need than providing access to care,” Sister Judith Ann Karam CSA said during the press conference. “There is no debate, health care is a basic right. It is directly related to the dignity of the human being. Who would have ever thought we would be in this position again today where we would have to fight for health care access for the people of the United States.”
[Read the Sisters of Charity Health System's statement on the proposed Better Care Reconciliation Act.]
More than 220,000 Ohioans with addiction or mental health disorders now have coverage under the Affordable Care Act. A repeal would kick those people off of their insurance, potentially disrupting treatment services for hundreds of thousands of Ohioans as they are fighting for their lives.
Ohio spent nearly $1 billion dollars to fight the opioid epidemic last year alone, with 70 percent of this investment coming directly from Medicaid. The proposed Senate bill would end Medicaid expansion and replace it with just $2 billion to address the opioid crisis across the entire country over ten years. Experts have said that even a $45 billion investment won’t work. This money would be insufficient and therefore, useless if Ohio doesn’t have a Medicaid program to get people covered.
“There have been tremendous strides toward adequate resources to address this epidemic such as the expansion of Medicaid and aspects of the Affordable Care Act,” Parran said. “It’s absolutely essential for those people with limited means, who are typically working people ineligible for Medicaid, to receive adequate care for their medical problems, behavioral health problems and most especially their addiction issues. That’s’ why it’s so essential to maintain this access and not to move backwards.”
Rosary Hall is recognized across Ohio and nationally for its leadership and expertise in addressing the opioid addiction epidemic with a comprehensive, evidence-based approach that has far greater success rates than disparate treatment options for addiction.
In a typical year, Rosary Hall serves approximately 2,000 individuals.
One of those individuals is Brittany Shartz. Despite growing up in a typical middle-class family, Shartz began to struggle with mental illness and depression at the young age of 13. Even with strong support from her family, Shartz’s depression and mental health issues led to experimentation with drugs and self-medication.
Upon moving out of her family’s home at the age of 18, she fell in the familiar cycle of getting sober, relapsing, getting sober and relapsing again.
“I moved out and I worked but I could never afford health insurance. People are always going to pick what is most important to them, so I was always going to choose rent before health insurance,” Shartz says of that period of her life. “Next it was getting car insurance. Health insurance is typically the first thing people pick to get rid of when money gets tight.”
It wasn’t until Shartz entered Rosary Hall for treatment for her addiction to opioids that she learned about Medicaid from St. Vincent Charity Medical Center staff and was able to receive health care coverage that would start her on a path to sobriety.
“Every single part of my recovery revolves around Medicaid, except for my self-motivation,” Shartz said during the press conference.
Today, Shartz is a mother and works as a detox coach at Rosary Hall.
To learn more about Rosary Hall and St. Vincent Charity Medical Center’s vision for the future of treatment of opioid addiction, click here.