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A paramedic was skeptical about this treatment for stopping repeat opioid overdoses. Then he saw it help

Lauren Peace, Tampa Bay Times, KFF Health News on

Published in News & Features

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For a long time, many people who could benefit from buprenorphine, commonly known by the brand name Subutex, couldn’t get it.

Until recently, doctors needed a federal waiver to prescribe it to treat opioid use disorder. Amid misconceptions about treating opioid use disorder with medication, only about 5% of doctors nationally underwent the training to qualify. And in 2021, only 1 in 5 people who could have benefited from opioid addiction medication were receiving buprenorphine or another drug therapy.

But as evidence supporting the drug’s efficacy grew and the urgency mounted to curb opioid deaths, Congress axed the waiver requirement in late 2022, clearing the way for greater availability.

And in rare cases, such as in Ocala, medics on the front lines began bringing treatment to patients’ front doors.

In Florida, the state-run Coordinated Opioid Recovery Network, known as the CORE Network, provides guidelines on medicine distribution to areas hit hard by overdoses. Services through the network are free for patients, funded by money from the state’s opioid settlement.

 

The network looks different in each of its 13 counties. Not all hand-deliver buprenorphine. But the common goal is to create a single entry point for services that have typically been siloed and difficult for patients to navigate, such as mental health care and housing support.

In a recovery landscape rife with shoddy facilities and prohibitive price tags, simplifying the path for patients stands to make a meaningful difference.

“We know that the more people are in contact with services, the more they’re treated with respect, the more likely they are to reduce or cease drug use,” said Susan Sherman, a public health professor at Johns Hopkins University.

As opioid settlement dollars continue to come in, state officials have said they hope to expand to more counties.

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©2024 KFF Health News. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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