While Texas boasts opioid overdose rates below the national average, the Lone Star State has not been completely free of addiction and other behavioral health concerns. Here are a few of the behavioral health news stories making the rounds in Texas.
Texas launches GetWaiveredTX to help expand buprenorphine use
A group of health care providers, social scientists, and addiction specialists are bringing the GetWaivered program to Texas to encourage the use of the drug buprenorphine. Doctors currently need a waiver from the Drug Enforcement Administration to prescribe buprenorphine, which can help reduce opioid overdose risk and encourage addiction recovery with medication-assisted treatment (MAT).
The GetWaivered program, originally started in Massachusetts General Hospital, aims to help train physicians to obtain the necessary waiver. Texas has a lower rate of opioid overdose deaths compared to the national average, but there were still 1,458 deaths in 2017, the National Institute on Drug Abuse reports. Opioid overdose deaths in Texas have been on the rise since 2013.
Texas lacks “Good Samaritan law” for drug users
When someone experiences an opioid overdose, life-saving help is most likely to come from another drug user. However, in Texas, the helpful individual could still be arrested for drug possession, making them reluctant to call 911, writes Dr. Carlos Tirado, psychiatrist and president of the Texas chapter of the American Society of Addiction Medicine.
Dr. Tirado notes that Texas is one of only a few states that do not have a “Good Samaritan law” that protects people who call for emergency assistance for drug overdose from arrest for low-level drug offenses. Texas Governor Greg Abbott vetoed a Good Samaritan bill in 2015, and has indicated reluctance to approve two new, similar bills, Senate Bill 305 and House Bill 2432.
According to Dr. Tirado, there is no evidence that drug users in the 40 states with Good Samaritan laws habitually misuse those laws. He also notes that a Good Samaritan law was recommended by the House Select Committee on Opioids and Substance Abuse.
Hospitals are an underused resource in opioid crisis
Not enough hospital providers address addiction in patients treated for overdose, according to two providers at Dell Seton Medical Center in Austin, Texas. Although thousands of Americans are hospitalized for opioid misuse each year, few hospitals provide additional addiction support after treating the immediate physical symptoms.
Physician assistant Richard Bottner and physician Christopher Moriates note that hospitals can provide a safe space, where individuals with addiction can reflect on the consequences of drug use and possible recovery options. Dell Seton is currently the only Texas hospital with a formal program to treat opioid addiction during inpatient hospitalization. The “B-Team,” a joint program by the medical center and Dell Medical School at The University of Texas at Austin, has already worked with over 75 patients in less than six months to offer MAT.
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