Early Data Show Promise in Telephone Counseling for Opioid-Use Disorder

Early Data Show Promise in Telephone Counseling for Opioid-Use Disorder

Providers grapple with how to protect vulnerable patients and maintain addiction treatment.

For 46-year-old Jocelyn Tavarez, maintaining access to medication-assisted treatment (MAT) during the pandemic meant going from “The Flintstones” to “The Jetsons” in a matter of days, she told MedPage Today.

Tavarez has been receiving MAT and other services at CODAC Behavioral Healthcare — the largest non-profit, outpatient provider for opioid treatment in Rhode Island — for about two years. MAT is the standard of care for opioid-use disorder, and involves medications, such as buprenorphine and methadone, in combination with counseling. Since early in the pandemic, MAT patient Tavarez has been receiving her counseling telephonically.

Initially, the transition from in-person to virtual care was daunting, the self-described “people-person” said. Tavarez wasn’t sure using technology to receive the essential services she looked forward to each week — including counseling, yoga, and a women’s support group — would be navigable or beneficial.

But CODAC provided Tavarez a cell phone to ease the process. And once she warmed up to the technology and connecting with her care team and peers in a different way, she hasn’t looked back. Maintaining the routine and connection — albeit virtually — has been essential to her ongoing success, she said.

Tavarez isn’t alone.

CODAC partnered with Brown University to study how well patients and providers feel telephone counseling for MAT has been working during the pandemic. The results have proved promising in a potential bright spot for the addiction treatment sector, grappling with how best to protect vulnerable patients from potential exposure to COVID-19, serve new ones as overdoses spike during the pandemic, and get reimbursed for their efforts.

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