Accessing Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) during COVID-19

It has become more difficult to access medication-assisted treatment (MAT) during COVID-19. The coronavirus pandemic has largely shifted the way we interact with our doctors, therapists and care providers to a telehealth model. Non-critical or emergency medical visits are increasingly being conducted via video conferencing to alleviate the worries over patient safety while still endeavoring to provide quality care. While this has kept patients and providers safer and minimized exposure, it has made it admittedly more difficult for many people to access care resources like testing and medications. This includes opioid maintenance drugs like Suboxone®, Vivitrol® and methadone. If you or your loved one are trying to access medication-assisted treatment through telehealth, here are some things you may need to know.

Telehealth and MAT during Coronavirus

The Ryan Haight Act mandates that care providers prescribing controlled substances over the internet conduct at least one in-person medical visit prior to administering the medications; however, it provides an exemption for credentialed MAT providers engaged in the practice of telemedicine. In the context of the legislation, telemedicine essentially means care that is being dispensed in a remote location using approved telecommunication devices during clinical sessions.

The Department of Health and Human Services has also outlined best practices and parameters for prescribing buprenorphine through telehealth. Some examples of eligibility include:

  • A patient being seen in a rural health clinic staffed by a nurse practitioner licensed in the state and has a DEA registration consistent with the nurse practitioner’s scope of practice.
  • The nurse practitioner conducting an examination of the patient and determines that treatment with buprenorphine for opioid addiction is clinically indicated, and the patient agrees to treatment.
  • At the patient visit, when the nurse practitioner connects the patient to the remote addiction specialist via an appropriately safeguarded interactive telecommunications system.

MAT, OTPs and COVID-19

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) generally requires opioid treatment programs (OTPs) to give patients a complete, fully documented physical evaluation by a program physician or a primary care physician, or an authorized healthcare professional under the supervision of a program physician, before admission. During the COVID-19 pandemic; however, SAMHSA has temporarily waived this requirement if a qualified provider determines that an adequate examination can be done via telehealth. The organization has put together a list of FAQ for patients looking to access MAT via telehealth.

Recovery Unplugged is a trusted and reputable provider of medication-assisted treatment and is ready to help you or your loved one access this potentially lifesaving treatment resource. Contact our staff today to learn more about accessing MAT during  COVID-19.

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