While it has not seen the devastating levels of opioid addiction as other states, California still faces the challenges of opioids and other addictions. Here are the behavioral health issues and solutions making headlines in the state.
California Expands Addiction Treatment Program
The “Hub and Spoke” system of addiction treatment involves regional treatment centers connected to supporting facilities, creating a network that resembles the hub and spokes of a wheel. This helps patients get appropriate help close to home, with individualized treatment plans.
This system was first launched in Vermont in 2012, and since 2017 has been implemented on a larger scale in California. Funded by $90 million in federal grants, California began with 18 hubs and 57 spokes. It has expanded to more than 200 spokes across the state.
San Francisco-Based Insurer Reduces Members’ Opioid Use
Blue Shield of California reports that members with chronic, non-cancer pain have reduced their overall opioid use by 56 percent compared to 2014 levels. The organization in 2015 launched the Narcotic Safety Initiative to reduce members’ opioid use by 50 percent.
The initiative focused on both preventing patients from being prescribed high levels opioids and reducing the number of patients currently using long-term, high levels of opioids. This includes targeting extended-release opioids, which can contribute to opioid tolerance, and reducing opioid misuse and promoting alternative pain management.
University of California Grad Students Offer Solutions to Persistent Issues
Kate Linker, a grad student in anatomy and neurobiology at UC Irvine, has uncovered data on why adolescents are at such high risk of addiction. Teenage addiction may be connected to the brain’s immune system, Linker suggests. She is currently working with the California-based company Plexxikon to develop a new treatment that suppresses drug motivation without affecting other behaviors.
Many Providers Limited in Treating Opioid Abuse
Research from UC San Francisco has found that at least six states with high rates of opioid abuse also have tighter restrictions on the ability of nurse practitioners (NPs) to prescribe medication that could can help treat addiction. The study, published in JAMA, recommends reforms to relax restrictions and help health providers better address the opioid crisis.
California is one state that more severely restricts NP scopes of practice. However, lawmakers have introduced a bill to eliminate the physician collaboration requirement, a recommendation from the California Future Health Workforce Commission. Study corresponding author Joanne Spetz, Ph.D., suggests that, even without changes in current regulations, states might develop programs that connect NPs with physicians who are willing to supervise them in offering buprenorphine.
Medication May Reduce Arrests in People With Opioid Use Disorder
Research indicates that people with opioid use disorder who are prescribed buprenorphine or methadone may be less likely likely to be arrested and incarcerated compared to those not taking the medication. The study, published in the journal Addiction, included 303 individuals who had entered three opioid treatment programs in California over a period of five years.
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