UAMS, DHS Launch Free Consultation Service for Healthcare Providers Treating Opioid-Addicted Patients

The University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) and the Arkansas Department of Human Services (DHS) launched a free one-on-one consultation service for healthcare providers treating patients diagnosed with opioid addiction.

These providers can call the Medication-Assisted Treatment Recovery Initiative for Arkansas Rural Communities (MATRIARC) hotline for advice on a range of topics – anything from determining dosages of addiction treatment medications like buprenorphine/naloxone (Suboxone) to connecting patients with support services to handling billing. The providers can also receive a telemedicine consult for advice or a second opinion from a UAMS addiction expert.

To connect with the hotline service, call (833) 872-7404 or (501) 526-8459.

“There are few people in the state who are providing medication-assisted treatment, so many of our patients drive hours for treatment and others never seek treatment because of these barriers to care,” said Michael Mancino, MD, a psychiatrist, director of the Center for Addiction Services in the UAMS Psychiatric Research Institute, and leader behind MATRIARC.

“We think helping community providers gain the knowledge and confidence to treat these patients close to home will be an important step in addressing the deadly opioid epidemic in Arkansas.”

The service was announced at a symposium at UAMS about the opioid epidemic’s national and state impact. The symposium speakers included Mancino; Pedro Delgado, MD, director of the UAMS Psychiatric Research Institute; Cindy Gillespie, director of the Arkansas Department of Human Services; Kirk Lane, state drug director; John Kirtley, PharmD, executive director of the Arkansas Pharmacy Board; and Laura Monteverdi, anchor on THV11's Morning Show.

MATRIARC is made up of two parts—the hotline service that is open now and a group video conference service that launches in August.

The group conference program will also be free and open to healthcare providers who are treating or who are interested in treating patients addicted to opioids. The group will meet via a live online video connection and be able to learn about treating opioid addiction and present specific cases for advice and consultation.

Arkansas ranks second in the nation for its opioid prescribing rate with an average of 114.6 prescriptions per 100 people, according to U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data from 2014-2016.There were 116 deaths per day from opioid-related drug overdoses in the United States in 2016, according to the U.S Department of Health and Human Services.

It takes specific training to be able to treat opioid addiction, also called opioid use disorder, with medications like buprenorphine. Treatment through the UAMS Center for Addiction Services involves a combination of medication and group and individual therapy.

In Arkansas, there are about 85 doctors certified to prescribe buprenorphine, much less than many other states. For example, in Tennessee, there are more than 800.

“Most of those doctors are centered in large cities; they’re not located in small communities where people can drive down the street and go see their doctor,” Mancino said. “Our goal is for there to be doctors in every part of the state who can offer help to these patients.”