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Recovery Within Reach: Medication-Assisted Treatment of Opioid Addiction Comes to Primary Care

Barbara Masters and Mary Rainwater

Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) for opioid addiction can speed recovery and save lives. What does it take for clinics to incorporate MAT programs into primary care settings?

Someone touching someone's shoulder with care.

The treatment of addiction is widely misunderstood, and the disease remains clouded in stigma and shame. Addiction to opioids, including prescription painkillers and heroin, is at epidemic levels in the US, yet only 10% of those who need help with treatment for substance use can access it. Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) — treatment that combines medication with behavioral health services — has been proven to save lives and increase recovery rates.

Recovery Within Reach: Medication-Assisted Treatment of Opioid Addiction Comes to Primary Care explores several options for expanding access to MAT (specifically, buprenorphine) for those who are addicted to opioids, and provides recommendations for California clinics and primary care practices.

Experts interviewed for this paper identified 10 elements common to successful primary care buprenorphine programs:

  1. A champion
  2. Staffing for administrative activities
  3. A team-based approach
  4. Connection to behavioral health services
  5. Mentoring support for physicians
  6. Two waivered doctors per practice
  7. Assessment of patient readiness
  8. An induction approach that fits
  9. Pharmacists willing to partner
  10. Sustainable financing

The full report, as well as a one-page handout describing the 10 elements of success, is available under Document Downloads.

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