MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – West Virginia continues to be devastated by the opioid epidemic, leading the nation in overdose death rates. According to STAT News, opioids could kill nearly half a million Americans in the next 10 years.
To address this growing crisis, the West Virginia Clinical and Translational Science Institute (WVCTSI) has recently expanded its Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes (ECHO) program to broaden use of medication-assisted treatment (MAT), a combination of behavioral therapy and medication to treat individuals with substance use disorder.
“Medication Assisted Treatment is the best evidence-based weapon doctors have right now to help the seemingly endless number of people whose lives are being destroyed by opioid addiction,” said James Berry, D.O., addiction psychiatrist and medical director at WVU Medicine’s Chestnut Ridge Center. “Unfortunately, there just aren’t enough skilled MAT providers available to treat every patient who needs help.”
“If we are to have any hope of changing the way we treat our patients who are addicted to opioids, we have to expand access to treatment,” said Ryan Morrison, M.D., physician with Cabin Creek Health Systems and ECHO participant. “I think an interactive program like this ECHO could advance the accessibility and quality of opioid rehabilitation statewide.”
This collaborative project between WVCTSI, new funding partner UniCare Health Plan of West Virginia, the West Virginia Primary Care Association, Cabin Creek Health Systems, West Virginia University, and Project ECHO, utilizes a hub and spoke knowledge-sharing network to connect rural healthcare providers with substance abuse specialists at WVU. These healthcare providers connect to no-cost bi-weekly sessions to present cases and participate in topics relevant to MAT.
“The ECHO program is a proven mechanism to amplify specialty expertise among community providers,” said Sally Hodder, M.D., WVCTSI director. “Thanks to the effort and support of our partners we are able to augment provider knowledge around medication-assisted treatment and begin to tackle what may be the greatest healthcare challenge West Virginia has ever faced.”
During sessions providers from across West Virginia will be instructed on the benefits of MAT and learn how to implement a group-based recovery model in various practice settings. Additionally, participants have the opportunity for in-person follow up consultations with substance abuse specialists at WVU’s Comprehensive Opioid Addiction Treatment (COAT) Program.
“It’s important that these providers have the ability to receive continued guidance while treating these patients,” said Dr. Berry. “Addiction isn’t a quick fix, we can’t just give them a pill and say ‘you’re all better.’ We need to offer these physicians the ability to adjust treatment as their patients’ needs adapt.”
Project ECHO originated at the University of New Mexico and has since spread worldwide to address a variety of healthcare needs.
WV Project ECHO Medication-Assisted Treatment is WVCTSI’s third ECHO program to address substance abuse in West Virginia. Other existing programs have dealt with hepatitis C and chronic pain. In the coming weeks WVCTSI will also begin a fourth ECHO program to increase rural access to specialized psychiatric care.
The WV Project ECHO Medication-Assisted Treatment is still accepting clinics that would like to participate in this free resource. For more information, contact Jay Mason at firstname.lastname@example.org.
WVCTSI is funded by an IDeA Clinical and Translational grant from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (2U54GM104942-02) to support the mission of building clinical and translational research infrastructure and capacity to impact health disparities in West Virginia.
West Virginia Clinical and Translational Science Institute