UVM Medical Center takes multiple paths to combat opioid addiction

Strategy brings together community leaders

Addiction to opioids is a serious public health problem with potentially devastating consequences — both for the people who are addicted and for our communities. Vermont has been a leader in confronting opioid addiction and is one of just four states recognized by the National Safety Council in 2016 as having made significant progress in tackling this pervasive problem.

Below is a sampling of the UVM Medical Center’s contributions to this community-wide effort.

A new program approaches addiction as a chronic disease, supporting primary care providers as they treat patients over the long term.

In 2015, UVM Medical Center and about 20 community partners came together to create a broad-based approach to addressing this crisis. The Chittenden County Opioid Alliance includes executives from government, business, health care and social service organizations.

Four teams are working to identify systemic barriers to treatment, address care/case coordination for those with complex needs, enlist existing substance abuse prevention groups, and increase staff capacity to provide treatment and employment services.

We have trained 46 UVM Medical Center primary care physicians to administer Suboxone® – a drug used to treat opiate addiction – allowing two outpatient drug treatment centers run by UVM Medical Center and The Howard Center to clear out much of their waiting list.

Our DayOne program, expanded in February, acts as a bridge between the Chittenden Center – with its higher level of treatment – and our primary care medical homes, where patients are already known by our staff. Approximately 90 percent of patients who have received treatment in the program have successfully transitioned to primary care practices.

We have been a leader in research on pain management and safer treatment of patients who are addicted. Our research focuses on initial safe prescribing, multi-modal pain management, integrated health options and better treatments for those who are addicted.

A new program approaches addiction as a chronic disease, supporting primary care providers as they treat patients over the long term. Multidisciplinary interventions include medication-assisted treatment, behavioral therapy, psychotherapy and coordinated care. Our physicians are also leading a multi-specialty effort to develop guidelines for prescribing opioids after surgery.

This and other work is ongoing, as we continue to look for new ways to address this problem.