Just back from Ohio, where the heroin overdose statistics and cases are disparaging…a county is leasing refrigerated trailers due to its crowded public morgue, and a family fighting to protect their bloodline from dying with the last living son because of heroin overdoses.
Meeting with the Opioid Treatment Authority in Columbus last week, I was encouraged to learn that Ohio’s public health department is engaging the epidemic challenge of heroin use and overdose in a multi-pronged manner to include intensive training for addictions treatment professionals. Ohio’s transparency and realism offers an example to all communities in our country about how to make a difference. Stigmatizing and glossing over the impact on life and health have long been the norm, due in part to the lack of understanding that fuels any epidemic.
Medication Assisted Treatment, endorsed and formulated by the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, COMBINES behavioral and medical treatments in a manner that challenges the philosophy, practice and values of professionals working on either side of the proverbial “fence” that many have sustained by their practice. It is proper to decline patients seeking MAT for providers whose beliefs exclude either medication OR talk therapy if the patients’ preference for combined therapy is clear. Much of this bias on the part of providers is covert or implicit.
The time to pursue newer approaches, many that may seem novel, has arrived. In order to meet our local and national communities’ needs in response to the epidemic that heroin use now presents, a change in healthcare thinking and delivery is needed.