Alameda Health System (AHS) Highland and Eastmont Wellness Centers each received a $50,000 grant to address opioid addiction.

The “Addiction Treatment Starts Here: Primary Care” grant funding was from the Center for Care Innovation to increase medication assisted treatment (MAT) in primary care for patients with opioid use disorder (OUD).

“We want to make sure people can get access to treatment regardless of where they enter our system of care. It could be the same day clinic, the emergency department or primary care. We refer to this as ‘No wrong door,’” said David Tian, M.D. attending physician at Highland Wellness and medical director of the AHS Buprenorphine Induction Clinic.

Tian was hired to create an integrated primary care MAT program at Highland Wellness, and he is delighted the grant will allow the program to expand to Eastmont Wellness. This funding is timely being that one of the PRIME team’s goals is to provide better care to patients with co-occurring medical, behavioral, or substance use disorder conditions. Research has shown that medications are particularly effective if continued over the long term, creating a need for more primary care doctors to offer addiction care.

“This grant gives us the support we need to build teams that are properly equipped to treat patients who want to stop misusing opioids. People who receive MAT are 50% less likely to die compared to those who are not getting treatment – this saves lives,” said Jessica Wang, M. D., the physician leading the MAT program at Eastmont Wellness.

Tian and Wang both received a special license from the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) that allows them to prescribe buprenorphine, a medication that can be used to treat OUD directly from primary care. There are three medications used to treat OUD: methadone, buprenorphine, and naltrexone. These help patients achieve remission from their drug use. But medication alone often isn’t enough.

“Addiction is more than drug usage. There is a social and behavioral health component as well, and we have to be able to address this. This funding will allow us to treat patients holistically. Not only will they be monitored by their primary care physician, they will also have case management support and potentially participate in group therapy,” said Wang.

The funding will also be used to train staff to properly communicate with patients who have opioid use disorder and to establish trust.

“Of course we have to spread the word that our program is available, but our patients need to know they can come to us for this kind of help. It will involve everyone being on board with fostering this type of environment from the patient service representatives to the physicians,” said Wang.