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How do we help health centers serve people with opioid use disorders?

Supporting technical assistance to health centers on substance use treatment

The epidemic of opioid use disorder (OUD) and overdose deaths is an urgent national crisis that requires the attention and coordinated efforts of federal, state, and local governments and citizens across America’s communities. The Health Resources and Services Administration’s Health Center Program includes more than 1,400 health centers that served over 24 million people in 2015, including many of the sickest and most vulnerable. It is important to make treatment for OUD more widely available in these health centers.

The ECHO Institute at the University of New Mexico has developed a promising collaborative model to meet this challenge. It is a model of medical education and case consultation delivered via telehealth that empowers clinicians to provide better care. It dramatically increases access to specialty treatment in rural and underserved areas to patients with complex conditions.

One aspect of the initiative is to expand substance use treatment capacity.  But, there are a number of barriers, including

  • Lack of training and expertise in addiction among medical providers
  • Limited coordination of physical and behavioral health care
  • Stigma associated with addictive disorders
  • Inadequate supports for primary care teams trying to implement medication-assisted treatment (MAT) for OUD

Supporting the ECHO Institute, Westat is evaluating the impact of the technical assistance on the health centers’ capacity to serve people with OUD or other substance use disorders.

Project ECHO will provide training, technical assistance, and case-based learning opportunities to 100 health centers to improve their ability to provide MAT for opioid and other substance use disorders.

Westat works with Project ECHO to analyze participant feedback and data reported by the health centers and identify ways to make the intervention more effective.

More health centers will be able to help address the opioid epidemic and Project ECHO will be able to refine its approach to providing technical assistance.

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