In Massachusetts, the Neighborhood Health Plan (NHP), member of MassHealth, is launching initiatives to help lead the industry in innovative ways to promote medication-assisted treatment (MAT.) NHP says their efforts will support recovery and help reduce the number of opioid overdoses and deaths in hospital settings.

Addressing Nursing Knowledge and Treatment Gaps

NHP will begin offering financial incentives to encourage more of their medical providers to provide medication-assisted treatment to people with substance abuse disorders and help more providers get trained on their usage.

Medication-assisted treatment blocks opioids and helps ease withdrawal symptoms. Suboxone and other buprenorphine products to reduce cravings and withdrawal systems associate. According to the World Health Organization, buprenorphine and methadone are “essential medicines.” Both are considered incredibly useful for aiding a person’s drug cessation. Another medication often used in medication-assisted treatment is naltrexone, which requires full detoxification before initiating therapy.

Medications are never considered a substitute for therapy or drug treatment. Most often, they are combined with a treatment program, 12-step meetings and behavioral counseling. Primary care physicians can help refer their patients to support their substance abuse disorder. The goal is to help patients get and stay clean, and MAT has proven to be safe and effective for thousands of people across the US.


Making Help More Accessible

Neighborhood Health Plan also has plans to help patients with opioid use disorders get the help they need. One part of the plan is hiring recovery coaches to help guide and supports patients in recovery and prevent relapses.

NHP also says they will be waiving co-pays for the opioid antagonist drug, naloxone and the brand-name version Narcan. These drugs can help reverse accidental overdoses and give a person time to get medical help as well. NHP wants to pro-actively remind pharmacists to notify NHP members that they are eligible for free Narcan supplies. Members of NHP should be given the Narcan/naloxone reminder whenever they pick up a prescription for a large dose of narcotics such as Oxycontin.

While NHP is not sure how large of an impact their actions will make, they explained that they feel as if it’s their responsibility to their community to at least test new initiatives that might help their patients.

NHP is the first insurer on record to hire recovery coaches.

“From a community benefit perspective, I would hope that we’re setting the pace here,” Tony Dodek, Neighborhood’s chief medical officer said. “We’d like to see others emulate what we’re doing.”