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Tulare health center gets over $100K to help fight opioid abuse

Tulare health center gets over $100K to help fight opioid abuse

Altura Health Center receives $167,000 in funding to combat opioid abuse, plans to hire a chiropractor for alternative pain management 

@TheSunGazette

TULARE – One local health center is getting some big bucks to fight one of the nation’s biggest medical problems: opioid abuse. 

The federal Health and Human Services agency noted two weeks ago that they awarded $31,536,255 to the State of California to combat the opioid crisis. The investments will enable Heath Resources and Services Administration-funded community health centers, rural organizations and academic institutions supporting residents in California to establish and expand access to integrated substance use disorder and mental health services.

Locally, Altura in Tulare was awarded $167,000 toward the cause. According to their grant writer, Dawn Wells, Altura will put their dollars into the workforce. 

“We will use our funds for workforce expansion. We will start offering chiropractic services at our Multi-Services Site in Tulare, to provide chronic pain management services.  Our chiropractor will be a part of a multidisciplinary team which includes primary care and behavioral health providers, working together to prevent substance use disorders,” Wells said in an email to the Sun-Gazette.

The awards support HHS’s Five-Point Opioid Strategy. The number of patients receiving medication-assisted treatment (MAT) for opioid addiction at HRSA-funded health centers increased 142 percent from 2016 to 2018 and, since President Trump took office, the number of patients receiving buprenorphine, a common form of MAT, has increased 28 percent.

“Health centers and behavioral health providers are on the front lines of the fight against the opioid crisis and substance abuse, especially in rural communities,” HHS Secretary Alex Azar said.

“From implementing and expanding substance use disorder services at HRSA-funded health centers to increasing support and training to our nation’s behavioral health workforce to improving access to treatment in rural areas, this announcement demonstrates the Administration’s commitment to ending this crisis,” said HRSA Acting Administrator Tom Engels.

Nationally, HRSA is awarding more than $200 million to 1,208 health in all states through the IBHS program.

In February, Kaweah Delta Hospital Foundation was selected to receive a portion of $8 million, as well as training and technical assistance, to improve and increase access to treatment and referral of acute symptoms of substance use disorders hospital-wide.

The funding was part of the California Bridge Program, an accelerated training program for healthcare providers that will enhance access to around-the-clock substance use disorder treatment in California communities hit hardest by the opioid epidemic. 

A referral to an addiction treatment program has been the most that hospitals have generally been able to provide for patients identified as needing treatment for opioid use disorder. The Bridge model treats emergency rooms and acute care hospitals as a critical window for initiating treatment. When patients in opioid withdrawal come seeking medical care, including for reasons not related to opioid use, they will be offered a dose of medication such as buprenorphine to ease severe symptoms of withdrawal, and then they will be connected with outpatient treatment in the community. Studies have shown that patients given this option of medication designed for addiction treatment are more likely to remain in care than those who are given referral information alone.

Though California ranks only 37th in the country for prescription opioid deaths, the death rates in 16 rural California counties are high enough to put them in the top 10 for the whole nation, and overdoses by synthetic opioids were up 44 percent in California in 2017. Facilities selected for participation in the California Bridge Program are in regions facing some of the greatest need for substance use disorder treatment. 

The 18-month California Bridge training program will ensure that any interaction a patient has with the healthcare system can be a potential opportunity to enter into treatment. It approaches substance use disorder as a treatable chronic illness—creating an environment that welcomes disclosure of opioid use, provides rapid evidence-based treatment, and enables patients to enter and remain in treatment.

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