New project offers immediate help to people addicted to opioids

By  | 

BERLIN, Vt. (WCAX) It's immediate help for people addicted to opioids who want to get clean. It's called RAM-- Rapid Access to MAT or medication-assisted treatment.

Our Dom Amato spoke with the Central Vermont Medical Center and a Washington County recovery center about the project and why collaboration is so important.

It's a first of its kind pilot project, federally funded and supported by the Vermont Health Department. Doctors and nurses can offer an opioid blocker to someone in crisis, possibly helping them overcome the effects of addiction and help ease their transition into treatment.

"It's probably the most effective treatment we have for opiate use disorders," said Dr. Javad Mashkuri of the Central Vermont Medical Center.

RAM is a pilot project that started at the Central Vermont Medical Center last July.

"Traditionally, we haven't treated people with substance use disorders as well as we should," Mashkuri said.

Mashkuri is the Emergency Department director at CVMC. Mashkuri realized hospitals needed to play a larger role in helping those get treatment.

"It's not just as easy as giving them a medication," he said. "There has to be some aftercare, there has to be some thoughtfulness about how you go about it."

He helped bring together area treatment facilities to work collaboratively and to get help to people struggling with substance abuse.

"It takes a really tight collaboration among providers to be able to get people where they need to get right away," said Bob Purvis of the Turning Point Center of Washington County.

Purvis says they have been providing peer recovery coaches in the Emergency Department at CVMC-- another pilot project that started last year in Washington, Chittenden and Bennington counties. Recovery coaches have been through treatment themselves and meet with a person in crisis in the ER after an overdose. Coaches help connect users to recovery centers.

"One of the barriers for many people has been that they've learned that if they go, if they're inducted into the program, they'll have to go into withdrawal for some period of time," Purvis said.

But now with the RAM project, Buprenorphine, also known as Suboxone, can be prescribed on demand at the Emergency Department. And it's not just for someone who has overdosed. Anyone struggling with opiate addiction can participate in the program, whether they're in withdrawal or not. They receive a three-day supply-- just long enough to get them into treatment. So far, about 40 have taken advantage of the program and about 85 percent have followed up with some sort of treatment.

"We still have all of these patients now that have experienced medication-assisted treatment and have started the path to recovery which I think is a really good idea, I think it's the right thing to do, I think it shows that we're actually trying to help them at a time in need and it just sets the relationship for better therapy by being able to do that," Mashkuri said.

The UVM Medical Center in Burlington is also part of the RAM pilot project. The Vermont Health Department says they plan to expand it to two more communities this year.