Community effort leads to progress against opioid epidemic

Work continues to reduce addiction

Together with our community partners, we made significant progress this year in the fight against opioid addiction. While much remains to be done, there is reason to hope more Vermonters struggling with addiction will be able to receive treatment and that fewer people will become addicted to opioids. Below are some of our shared successes from 2017.

Expanding access to treatment

More physicians and advance practice nurses are prescribing Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT), which includes Suboxone, bupenorphrine, and methadone. In Vermont’s “hub-and-spoke” treatment system, patients enter a treatment program and then continue receiving medication and follow-up care from a primary care provider. The UVM Medical Center currently has more than 70 providers trained to prescribe MAT.

Eliminating the waiting list for treatment

In 2015, individuals in Chittenden County who decided they were ready for help faced a dangerous, and sometimes deadly, wait of up to 365 days. As of September 2017, they can get treatment right away.

Prescribing fewer opioids
Thirty percent fewer opioids are prescribed to patients at UVM Medical Center today than in 2015. Several factors contributed to this drop:

  • Providers and staff are talking with patients to determine the most appropriate treatment for their pain.
  • Public awareness of the risk of addiction to opioids has increased.
  • A state law that took effect in the summer of 2015 strictly limits the amount of opioids that can be prescribed for acute injury.

Looking ahead: Research and Training

  • Researchers are working with the Vermont Department of Health to better understand the extent of the opioid problem in Vermont. A $3.7 million grant from the National Institute of Drug Abuse is being used to continue the development and evaluation of a novel interim buprenorphine treatment that shows promise in reducing opioid use and risk behaviors while patients await treatment.
  • Courses led by nationally recognized experts in addiction medicine and treatment from the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth College are being offered to providers in Vermont to support the successful implementation of new prescribing practices.
  • In 2017, a UVM Medical Center team dedicated to improving opioid prescribing practices after common surgical procedures received a grant from the UVM Health Network. They will look at better ways to manage pain after surgery and reduce the amount of unused opioids in the community.