AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) - The state Department of Health and Human Services has announced it will expand access to medication-assisted addiction treatment by creating 359 new slots with a program scheduled to start next month.
The department says there are about 300 to 450 people in Maine dealing with an opiate use disorder who are on the waitlist for medication-assisted treatment, which combines behavioral therapy and medications to treat substance abuse.
The DHHS says it’s proposing new treatment slots using Suboxone or methadone at several centers and hospitals in Bangor, Calais, Bridgton and Biddeford.
The $2.4 million initiative will be funded by state and federal money. Funding from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration will be used to treat uninsured patients.
The program is slated to start Jan. 1.
Right now, a department substance abuse program funds 215 medication-assisted treatment slots for the uninsured. During the 2016 fiscal year, 8,627 individuals received such treatment services through that program and MaineCare.
But the state’s chief medical officer also noted that societal stigmas keep people from seeking help in the first place.
“So while many might be dealing with a substance use disorder, they may not yet be ready to enter treatment or may not see their issue as a problem,” said Dr. Christopher Pezzullo, chief medical officer.
The department says it will work to expand access to services in western and southeastern Maine while launching programs like community recovery centers, a large social detox center and a program tying parenting education and substance abuse services.
Starting in February, a federal waiver will allow Maine nurse practitioners and physician assistants with the necessary training to prescribe the treatment medication buprenorphine and treat up to 30 patients.
Buprenorphine products include Suboxone, which does not need to be taken in a structured clinic like methadone does.
GOP Gov. Paul LePage has promoted expanding access to Suboxone over methadone in Maine. His administration plans to implement rules requiring methadone clinics to incorporate therapy into treatment plans.
And this spring, Penobscot County Jail and Penobscot Community Health Care will launch a pilot program of Vivitrol - an injectable opioid abuse medication - for female inmates.
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