Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) is regarded as an evidence-based approach to treating substance use disorder (SUD), and it is on behavioral health organizations to drive implementation as they address the opioid crisis, according to a recent report from the Association for Behavioral Health and Wellness (ABHW).
In compiling the study, researchers interviewed representatives from 11 ABHW member companies, which are behavioral health organizations (BHO) that manage services and provider networks. The member organizations have found providers to be lukewarm in their acceptance of MAT.
“There are still people who don’t really believe that medications are an appropriate treatment for someone who has an addiction. That needs to get changed,” says Sharon Reif, PhD, one of the report’s authors and senior scientist at the Institute for Behavioral Health at the Heller School for Social Policy and Management, Brandeis University. “We wouldn’t say that about any other medication for any other medical condition. We say that for addiction. MAT is an important tool in the toolbox. It shouldn’t be the only tool, but it should certainly be there.”
In its findings, the ABHW report offers recommendations for helping to increase MAT access for patients, including providing resources that make providers aware of who in their community offers MAT services, considering incentives for primary care providers to incorporate MAT in treating opioid-dependent patients, and sharing evidence-based guidelines with providers.
Among the report’s additional findings:
- Respondents felt access to SUD treatment can be improved in a variety of ways, including: increasing the flexibility for the delivery system by no longer requiring inpatient or residential care/detoxification as a first step, as well as expanding SUD provider networks by including licensed alcohol or drug counselors or certified alcohol and drug counselors, accepting all Medicaid providers, and increasing methadone and MAT providers.
- A chronic disease approach to addiction treatment is essential.
- Privacy regulations—specifically HIPAA and 42 CFR Part 2—were a major concern for BHOs because they limit communication among providers and make it difficult for BHOs to share information with providers or the enrollee’s support system.
The full report is available on the ABHW website.