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New Effort to Expand MAT for Opioid Use in Indiana

Medication Assisted Treatment can help opioid users with withdrawal, cravings and relapse prevention. (AdobeStock)
Medication Assisted Treatment can help opioid users with withdrawal, cravings and relapse prevention. (AdobeStock)
March 10, 2020

INDIANAPOLIS -- Improving access to treatment and recovery services is a key strategy in fighting the opioid epidemic. But not all of Indiana's medical providers are armed with the latest tools to best help patients.

Just 1-in-3 people with opioid-use disorder are receiving Medication Assisted Treatment, which can reduce the risk of overdose death by half. Dr. Amnah Anwar, senior director at the Indiana Rural Health Association, explained there are misconceptions about the nature of both addiction and Medication Assisted Treatment.

"People want to go to a provider, get cured and come back and live their life normally," Anwar said. "We have to understand that this is a chronic disease, it is lifelong management and Medication Assisted Treatment is a method to improve the survival of the patient and it's not necessarily replacing one drug with the other."

MAT combines behavioral therapy and one of three medications that help with withdrawal, cravings and relapse prevention.

The Indiana Rural Health Association and UnitedHealthcare are offering free MAT training for physicians, nurses, physician assistants and psychiatrists on March 17 in Indianapolis. Once the training is complete, providers will have access to support and guidance to treat patients with opioid-use disorder from community-based clinicians through a virtual network.

Anwar said they also can then apply for a waiver to use Medication Assisted Treatment.

"So any primary-care provider in rural Indiana, if they get this waiver, they are able to prescribe buprenorphine and taking care of their patient population that is suffering from opioid-use disorder," she said.

Chief Medical Officer with UnitedHealthcare in Indiana Dr. Julie Daftari said they are committed to tackling the opioid epidemic and are collaborating with state partners, providers, health systems and community organizations on prevention, treatment, recovery and harm reduction.

"It's important for all stakeholders to work together," Daftari said. "It's a problem that doesn't occur in isolation, and it's going to take a collective effort to really make an impact."

Indiana has been particularly devastated by the epidemic. Since 2007, drug deaths in Indiana have tripled from 8 per 100,000 residents to nearly 24 deaths per 100,000.

Mary Schuermann Kuhlman, Public News Service - IN