Legislators and other policy makers throughout the country continue their efforts to combat the drug epidemic in America, especially with regards to heroin and other opiates. For example, lawmakers in Washington are seeking to change the way the Evergreen State approaches treating opioid addiction. House Bill 2489 and its counterpart in the Senate would make significant changes to the state law to make medication-assisted therapy the treatment of choice for opioid addiction, according to reports.
Treatments for Opioid Dependency
Medication-assisted therapy is one type of treatment where people dependent on the drugs are prescribed substitute medications such as buprenorphine or methadone to keep withdrawal symptoms under control while providing supportive counseling and other services.
Many studies have shown that the incorporation of such medication can be beneficial, although most treatment specialists still recommend only short-term usage, as continuing to take the drugs for years results in its own dependency. However, used for stabilization and then a tapering process bolstered by intensive treatment can improve early relapse rates for many users.
Offering Many Forms of Treatment
The deputy chief medical officer for the Washington Health Care Authority, Charissa Fotinos, pointed out that updating the state treatment guidelines would help to put across the message that addiction is not a moral failing on the part of those affected. It may not encourage more people to seek help, but it will change the tone of the conversation for those who do reach out for assistance.
Opioid users themselves stated in a survey they were very interested in medications to help them reduce their drug use. They are interested in obtaining the most effective treatment for their addiction, according to the University of Washington’s Alcohol and Drug Abuse Institute, which conducted the survey of needle exchange clients.
The bill will change the current language, and it includes directions to expand access to treatment options across the state. Many of these expanded treatment provisions hinge on funding that will be provided in Governor Jay Inslee’s new budget.
The new bill and the funding would work together to create a “hub and spoke” treatment network in areas of Washington. Six pilot sites are operating in the western part of the state with federal funding received last fall.
Under this treatment model, clients are referred to a central hub to get started on their treatment. Once they are stabilized, they can get ongoing care, including counseling and medication, from a mobile provider or a clinic located closer to their home.