Addressing the Opioid Epidemic: Putting Vision Into Action
Opioid addiction is the public health crisis of our time. In Maine and New Hampshire, more than one person a day dies as the result of an overdose. “Opioid addiction is a complex, chronic disease,” said Jessika Morin, MD, a family medicine provider at Southern Maine Health Care (SMHC) and member of the MaineHealth Opioid Implementation Steering Committee, which was formed in 2016 to address the crisis.
Research shows that people receiving a combination of medication-assisted therapy and counseling have a 61 percent success rate.* In October 2017, MaineHealth put its vision into action by launching the Integrated Medication Assisted Treatment (IMAT) program.
“Recovery isn’t a straight path,” added Morin. “Medications like Suboxone help those suffering from opioid addiction feel normal so they can then develop the coping skills through counseling needed to maintain their sobriety. Both providers and patients need a lot of real-time support to be successful. The IMAT program delivers intensive outpatient therapy (known as the hub) from Maine Behavioral Healthcare, followed by ongoing treatment (called the spoke) from local primary care practices like SMHC Family Medicine in Saco. As patients move through recovery, we collaborate with expert providers to help determine what the patient needs in the moment.”
Dr. Morin helped establish the program in York County after seeing firsthand how it changes lives. One of her patients, Andy Allen of Falmouth, grew up in a loving family. Because of degenerative disc disease, Andy was prescribed opioids to help him cope with chronic pain. Over the course of 10 years he used increasing amounts of the narcotic, which Andy got through prescriptions and on the street. But his life gradually fell apart. After trying to stop by himself, Andy reached out to Maine Medical Center for help and was referred to the IMAT program in Biddeford. Since getting into the program, Andy has a full-time job and is getting back to activities he used to enjoy, like weight lifting.
To date, more than 900 people have been treated for opioid use disorder through four hubs and multiple spokes at primary care practices located in each region within the MaineHealth system. In addition, MaineHealth’s three affiliate hospitals also provide IMAT for patients within their hospital systems. With the success of the model, another hub is being established in Portland later this year. “It takes a village to treat opioid use disorder,” said Dr. Morin, “and the IMAT program provides the framework clients and providers need to be successful.”
* Weiss, R.D.; Potter, J.S.; Griffin, M.L. et al. Long-term outcomes from the National Drug Abuse Treatment Clinical
Trials Network Prescription Opioid Addiction Treatment Study. Drug and Alcohol Dependence 150:112-119, 2015.