How California Is Increasing Access to MAT for Opioid Addiction

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Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) is used by many addiction treatment centers across the US to help people safely recover from opioid addiction. MAT is a combination of behavioral therapy, counseling, and medications that reduce opioid cravings and withdrawal symptoms (methadone and buprenorphine), and that block the euphoric and sedative effects of opioids (naltrexone).

The state of California is taking new steps to expand access to MAT for people who are struggling with opioid addiction in an effort to increase recovery rates and decrease rates of drug overdose.

Here’s a look at the scope of opioid addiction, and how California is increasing access to MAT.

The Scope of Opioid Use, Drug Overdose, and MAT in California

According to a nonprofit research organization called Urban Institute, an estimated 686,892 people aged 12 and older in California were diagnosed with opioid use disorder in 2019, and the opioid overdose death toll was 2,312. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) reports that in 2018, there were more than 2,400 opioid overdose deaths in California.

At present, only 52 of 320 acute care hospitals with emergency rooms in California offer MAT for opioid addiction. Statewide, there are 165 opioid treatment programs with a total of 54,565 methadone slots, which equates to about 162 slots per 100,000 Californians aged 12 and older. Furthermore, only 127,497 California residents receive buprenorphine treatment. The state is continuing to lack the resources needed to treat the nearly 686,900 people suffering from opioid addiction.

What Is California Doing to Increase Access to MAT?

In 2018, California launched the MAT Expansion Project, which is financed by $265 million in federal grants. The goal of this project is to increase access to MAT and reduce both the number of unmet treatment needs and opioid-related overdose deaths. The project is focusing mainly on populations that have limited access to MAT, including people who live in rural areas and who belong to American Indian and Alaska Native tribes.

The state program has plans to launch or enhance MAT programs in emergency departments, primary care clinics, inpatient residential rehab programs, county mental health centers, jails, and drug courts. The program also plans to train more doctors on how to use and provide MAT for opioid addiction, and so far, has trained a total of 396 new MAT prescribers. In February 2020, the California Department of Health Care Services created 650 new locations where patients can receive MAT for opioid addiction.

SAMHSA reports that MAT is shown to decrease illicit opioid use, and improve rates of patient survival, treatment retention, and birth outcomes in women who are pregnant and addicted to opioids. Therefore, increasing access to MAT can go a long way toward reducing opioid abuse in the state of California.

What Are Obstacles to MAT in California?

California faces many of the same obstacles as other states regarding increasing access to MAT. For instance, some drug rehab centers disagree with using drugs to treat drug use disorders, while many doctors are hesitant to offer MAT because doing so requires them to participate in federally mandated training programs that educate them on how to properly use methadone and buprenorphine. Furthermore, many medical schools do not train doctors on addiction; therefore, many doctors do not understand the benefits of MAT.

A new challenge with increasing access to MAT in California is the COVID-19 pandemic and stay-at-home orders that are preventing patients from meeting doctors in person. Patients are now being given buprenorphine prescriptions for one month instead of one week, and are required to consult with their doctors, counselors, and therapists over the phone and through video conferencing.

Where to Find Safe, Effective Opioid Addiction Treatment in California

Many drug rehab centers in California like Dana Point Rehab Campus have kept their doors open during COVID-19 to accommodate people who need help fighting opioid addiction. Dana Point Rehab Campus offer detox and inpatient residential rehab programs for those who need medical care and supervision as they withdraw from opioids.

If you or a loved one needs opioid addiction treatment, contact Dana Point Rehab Campus today at 949-347-5466 to begin the treatment process.