Ten community organizations around the state will share $1.5 million in grants from the Maine Health Access Foundation to create or expand medication-assisted treatment for opioid addiction.
The Penobscot Community Health Care center in Bangor is among those benefiting from the award, and it will use the money to develop a regional, rapid-access clinic as part of its primary care services.
The Maine Health Access Foundation, or MeHAF, is upping the ante in the state’s efforts to battle an opioid addiction crisis that claimed the lives of 376 people last year. MeHAF is providing $1.5 million to 10 organizations from York to Lincoln to encourage more health care providers to offer medication-assisted treatment for opioid addicts.
Using the medication Suboxone in tandem with counseling, MeHAF CEO Barbara Leonard says addiction specialists are able to improve the prospects for patients in recovery. And she says those specialists are being asked to help more and more Mainers every day.
“This is a crisis that hits all of us,” she says. “Some of us are lucky. Right now, I don’t have anyone in my family or in my immediate circle of friends that is dealing with addiction currently, but we’ve had close calls.”
Leonard’s Augusta-based nonprofit is dedicated to promoting access to quality health care, especially for those who are uninsured or medically underserved. She says her organization’s decision to provide a two-year funding stream for groups such as Penobscot Community Health Care, York Hospital and others is based on the idea that medication-assisted treatment plans for opioid abusers is the right thing to do, the right way to get addicts into recovery and ultimately a way to get them back into the workforce.
Dr. Noah Nesin, PCHC’s Vice President of Medical Affairs, agrees, saying the additional funding will do more than simply address patients’ recovery.
“It also is another step in changing the culture and changing the perception of this disease, and addressing the stigma associated with the disease, so that more and more people will undertake this work and more and more will be able to meet the need of the people who suffer with this disease, and allow them to access recovery and live full and productive lives,” he says.
Each of the 10 grantees will work with a network of their own partners, including primary care providers, behavioral health specialists and others with expertise in substance use and addiction care.
Leonard says emergency medical services, law enforcement and peer support and mutual aid groups will also be included to ensure the necessary referral relationships and wrap-around services to support expanded access to medication-assisted treatment in primary care settings.