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Medication-Assisted Treatment and its Life-Saving Benefits

A Message from Our CEO

Last month I talked about the importance of increasing access to treatment and doing whatever we can to save lives. In order to do so, we must provide people with all evidence-based treatment options available, including medication-assisted treatment (MAT).

Although medications have been used to treat opioid withdrawal and addiction for decades, there is resistance among the treatment community and patients. According  to the American Society of Addiction Medicine, only 30% of treatment programs nationwide offer MAT and less than half of eligible patients receive medication in treatment programs.

I believe we have an obligation to offer MAT to our recoverees because it’s the best option for sustained recovery. In fact, studies show that 90% of people in recovery for opioid addiction will relapse within the first year without one of the approved MAT medications. It’s important to note—medication assists treatment— it is not a cure.  Recovery is an active process that requires psychosocial and recovery supports. In addition to medication, individuals must learn skills to cope with life and regulate themselves and their mood without substances in order to succeed in recovery.

What is Medication-Assisted Treatment?
MAT is the use of medications, in conjunction with counseling and other behavioral therapies, to treat substance use disorders and prevent overdoses. The most common medications used for MAT are methadone, buprenorphine and naltrexone. Methadone and buprenorphine both suppress opioid withdrawal and reduce cravings by acting on the opioid receptors in the brain, without producing euphoria. Naltrexone works differently; it controls withdrawal and cravings by blocking the receptors, eliminating the euphoric effects of opioids.

Benefits of Using Medication-Assisted Treatment
Overdose deaths have steadily risen over the past 40 years, as noted in Science Magazine, which has forced us to rethink treatment approaches. As a result, more people are coming to understand the value of MAT and the role it can play in a person’s recovery.

In 2012, the prominent addiction organization, Hazeleden, realized the benefits of MAT and incorporated it into their treatment facilities. More recently, a New York Times article profiled a Tennessee-based facility whose leadership incorporated MAT into their program.

Research has shown, when used at the prescribed doses, these medications don’t produce a high in recoverees; instead, they allow the person to function normally and increase the likelihood that they will remain in a treatment program. Additionally, the use of these medications reduces the risk of infectious diseases and criminal behavior associated with drug use. It also improves the chances that a person will be able to gain and maintain employment.

As I have said before, at Liberation Programs, we do whatever we can to save lives. We understand that MAT plays an important role in recovery. I am happy to see that attitudes are shifting and becoming more accepting of this proven treatment. Many lives can be saved when we work together to decrease the stigma associated with MAT and educate people about its benefits.

Warm regards,

John Hamilton, LMFT, LADC
President and Chief Executive Officer

Message from Our CEO: Increasing Access to Treatment

Liberation Programs President & CEO John HamiltonLiberation Programs has always had a special place in my heart. I served as Senior Vice President from 1996 to 2006 and I’m thrilled to be back. It’s like coming home.

We know that 174 people die every day of a drug overdose. When we factor in alcohol, that number rises to 415. However, only 10 to 15 percent of the population in need of treatment receives it. Although there are countless obstacles that prevent people from seeking treatment – including stigma, shame and lack of insurance – one that is fairly easy to change is access to treatment.

Liberation is fully committed to increasing access to treatment for those in lower Fairfield County in the following ways.

Community Engagement
We are adding recovery coaches to our team. A recovery coach helps individuals gain and maintain recovery by partnering with them to address their needs and provide support. They also engage with the community to encourage individuals who would benefit from treatment, but are hesitant to do so, to start the process.

Liberation believes in meeting people where they are, meaning we focus on doing whatever we can to keep a person alive. Many programs require a person to abstain from substances and alcohol in order to receive treatment. Instead of forcing abstinence on a person, Liberation offers a glimmer of hope and encourages them to start or continue with the recovery process. We do this by building trust and treating every person with dignity and respect.

Increasing Our Capacity
There are too few licensed centers offering high-quality integrated behavioral health services in lower Fairfield County, which results in preventable overdose deaths and needless suffering. Our new Health & Wellness Center in Bridgeport will help serve more people in need of treatment. The center will enable us to increase the number of individuals we serve on a weekly basis from 600 to 800.

At the same time, in Stamford, the state has recognized the needs in the community and approved additional beds at Liberation House. This will increase our capacity by six percent.

As we close out the year, I’m excited to embark on our new initiatives in 2019. Our goal is simple: we want to save lives. No matter what stage of treatment a person is at, we will be there for them.

 

Warm regards,

John Hamilton, LMFT, LADC
President and Chief Executive Officer