RVBH offering medication-assisted treatment

Megan Phillips left, and Melanie Stanishia, both APRNs, are prescribers offering medication-assisted therapy at RiverValley Behavioral Health. Photo by Alan Warren, Messenger-Inquirer | [email protected]

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RiverValley Behavioral Health will now offer medication-assisted treatment.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration describes medication-assisted treatment (MAT) as the use of medications in combination with counseling and behavioral therapies, which is effective in the treatment of opioid use disorders (OUD) and can help some people sustain their recovery.

Lionel Phelps, RVBH vice president of continuous quality improvement, said while the service has been available for more than five decades, it is not something that’s widely available in the Green River District or many rural communities, as a whole.

“The whole goal of it is to help someone to move into and sustain recovery so the individual can go back to working, their family and being a part of the community again instead of this displaced person who’s dealing with this horrible disease that they cannot seem to overcome,” he said.

Phelps said MAT treats those struggling with opioid addiction, alcoholism and a variety of other substance use disorders.
Three drugs are approved by the FDA for the treatment of opioid dependence: buprenorphine, methadone and naltrexone. According to the FDA, all three treatments have been demonstrated to be safe and effective in combination with counseling and psychosocial support.

The goal of the medication, according to Phelps, is to provide a replication of the euphoric feelings associated with substance use and replace that feeling long enough so that a person is better able to engage and fully participate in behavioral therapy without being overcome by withdrawal symptoms.

“If you can imagine you are withdrawing from drugs or some substance, how engaged can you possibly be in the treatment when you’re going through this, and it can last weeks or months for some people,” he said. “So what this does is the medication helps replace that, makes it easier for that person at the same time, the person can engage in the treatment.”

Phelps said RVBH has been in the process of rolling the services out for around a year now, training more than 50 personnel members in MAT.

He sad the services will be largely beneficial to the community and the region, with the number of individuals struggling with opioid use being higher than originally anticipated.

“We were surprised with the number of people who are struggling with opioid addiction in our seven counties,” Phelps said. “It was higher than what we thought, so we know that what we are offering is appropriate, and we have already had more enrollment into the program than we anticipated, so we know the need is there.”

Dr. Wanda Figueroa, RVBH CEO and executive director, said the goal throughout the next year or so is to eventually roll out the services within the seven-county service area.

She said the integration of these services in the community “was long-overdue.”

“It will improve the health in the community, it increases the skills of our clinicians, it’s good for our community, it’s good for the clients, it’s good for our professional growth,” she said.

Christie Netherton, [email protected], 270-691-7360

Published on August 13, 2021