Substance use continues to present a severe problem in the United States, with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA’s) National Survey on Drug Use and Health estimating that almost 20% of people aged 12 or older had a substance use disorder (SUD) in 2017.
Harvard Pilgrim makes it a priority to assist our provider community in effectively treating patients with substance use disorders, and supports medication-assisted treatment (MAT) as a trusted avenue to recovery. MAT —which SAMHSA defines as “the use of medications in combination with counseling and behavioral therapies for the treatment of substance use disorders” —can help patients sustain recovery through its whole-patient approach to treatment. It should be part of a comprehensive management program that includes behavioral health treatment, as research indicates that medications alone are insufficient.
MAT provider training
As part of the Harvard Pilgrim/Optum Behavioral Health Provider Advisory Committee Meeting held on April 29, 2020, Harvard Pilgrim’s behavioral health partner Optum/UBH hosted and recorded a medical provider training on MAT, which you can view here. The 50-minute presentation, led by Optum/UBH’s Senior Director of Behavioral Policy and Strategy Marilyn Gaipa, offers a comprehensive look at MAT as an evidence-based treatment of substance use disorders that effectively reduces subsequent overdoses and detox stays and lowers emergency department utilization. It also highlights that a combination of MAT and supporting outpatient treatment dramatically improves patient outcomes.
Notably, the presentation also sheds light on the fact that alcohol use disorder makes up 50% of all SUD in the United States and is the third leading cause of preventable death. During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in New England, it was reported that alcohol sales were up 243% and that Alcohol Use Disorder and medical complications related to it have risen —and exceeded those associated with Opiate Use Disorder in the Commercial and Medicare Advantage populations.
SUD resources for members and providers
Optum/UBH makes a number of resources regarding MAT available in the ClinicalResources section of their website, including this MAT white paper and this SUD fact sheet. The American Psychiatric Association also maintains a helpful practice guideline on the treatment of alcohol use disorder. The new guideline is, according to American Psychological Association President Anita Everett, M.D., “an important step in bringing effective, evidence-based treatments for alcohol use disorder to many more people and in helping address the public health burden of alcohol use.”
In addition, Optum/UBH’s Substance Use Disorder Helpline (855-780-5955) is staffed 24/7 by licensed behavioral health clinicians to help patients:
- Identify local MAT and behavioral health treatment providers and provide targeted referrals for evidence-based care
- Educate members/families about substance use
- Assist in finding community support services
- Assign a care advocate to provide ongoing support for up to 6 months, when appropriate
We also encourage you to refer to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s website about National Recovery Month, which occurs every September.
Director, Network Operations