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WA Sites to Pilot Meds-First Approach to Opioid Addiction

A new Meds-First Initiative to treat opioid addiction will set up clinics in North Seattle, Spokane, Tacoma and Walla Walla. (goodluz/Adobe Stock)
A new Meds-First Initiative to treat opioid addiction will set up clinics in North Seattle, Spokane, Tacoma and Walla Walla. (goodluz/Adobe Stock)
August 27, 2019

SEATTLE — Four sites in Washington are piloting an underutilized but proven approach to treating opioid addiction.

The Meds-First Initiative will rely on medication-assisted treatment clinics to administer prescription drugs like buprenorphine, which blocks opioid cravings and has been shown to cut mortality rates in half.

North Seattle, Spokane, Tacoma and Walla Walla will host the clinics, according to Rafael Broze, incubation manager with the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation, which is providing $4.25 million to the program.

"Maybe 25% of Americans have access to evidence-based treatment. That struck us as a huge disconnect,” Broze said. “If only 25% of people with diabetes had access to insulin, we'd be up in arms. And we're trying to solve this problem as we would that."

The University of Washington Alcohol and Drug Abuse Institute is providing training and studying the results of the initiative. The pilot is expected to treat more than 1,200 people over the next two years.

The clinics will be set up in high-need areas to treat communities most directly affected by opioid addiction. Broze said the Meds-First Initiative approaches this issue with the knowledge that substance abuse is a chronic disease.

"We understand that we may not have overnight impact, but we believe this project will save lives, it'll stabilize lives, it'll return people to what they had before,” he said.

In 2018, more than 47,000 people died from opioid overdoses, including about two per day in Washington state.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - WA