Company to Serve as Educational Hub in Four States to Help Community Clinicians Combat the Opioid Epidemic and Close the ‘Treatment Gap’
BOSTON – Beacon Health Options (Beacon) announced today at a congressional briefing on the opioid epidemic that it is the first managed behavioral health organization to become an official partner to one of the most innovative health care practice models in the nation – Project ECHO (Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes).
Beacon’s multi-disciplinary clinical team serves as an ECHO hub to train community-based practitioners on medication-assisted treatment (MAT) for treating opioid use disorder (OUD). With two hubs launched in August that serve Connecticut and Florida, Beacon expects to have two more in service by the end of 2017.
Started in 2003, Project ECHO is a telementoring model that links specialists with community-based clinicians in rural or underserved areas through virtual clinics (teleECHOTM clinics), where the specialists mentor and share their knowledge through case-based learning and guided practice. Congress recognized Project ECHO as a national model for delivering care in underserved communities with the passage of the Expanding Capacity for Health Outcomes (ECHO) Act.
“As a company, we strive to increase access to evidenced-based treatments for opioid use disorder. We are proud to be the first managed behavioral health organization to leverage the ECHO model to improve access to opioid use disorder treatment, especially the use of medication-assisted treatment,” said Hal Levine, Beacon’s Chief Medical Officer. “ECHO will also help us grow the provider network and fill the treatment gap of clinicians who can effectively manage the holistic care of patients with opioid use disorder. Increased access to treatment is more important now than ever.”
Despite MAT’s demonstrated effectiveness, many people do not have access to this therapy. Nationwide, the number of people with opioid dependence far exceeds treatment capacity. This “treatment gap” is in both the publicly-funded and private-sector treatment programs. Further, only 23 percent of publicly-funded treatment programs report offering any FDA-approved medications to treat substance use disorders, and less than half of private-sector treatment programs reported that their physicians prescribed FDA-approved medication.
Today, more than 2 million Americans are addicted to prescription opioids, with 500,000 Americans addicted to heroin. Although the data is preliminary, according to a June 5, 2017 article in The New York Times, the best estimate regarding 2016 drug overdose deaths is that it rose 19 percent over the previous year.
“With the breakneck speed that health care research is advancing, we realize that medical knowledge often outpaces medical practice, especially in the field of behavioral health,” said Dr. Steve Bentsen, Beacon’s Chief Medical Officer for the company’s commercial and federal clients. “We sought out Project ECHO because this innovative mentoring tool teaches providers about community and Beacon resources that are critical in treating this condition. It also educates them on the latest advancements in evidence-based care and how to effectively integrate it into the opioid use care continuum.”
At the congressional briefing for health care legislative aides, Beacon’s Director of Addiction Services, Dr. Enrique Olivares, who is the lead for the Florida hub, will provide an overview of the program, how it helps close the treatment gap for OUD, and some impressions of the initial Florida teleECHO™ clinics.
The Association for Behavioral Health and Wellness presented the briefing, and the Congressional Caucus on Prescription Drug Abuse hosted it.
About the ECHO Institute
The ECHO Institute, based at the University of New Mexico Health Science Center, utilizes a groundbreaking approach to increasing access to specialty care that started in 2003, in New Mexico. Its Project ECHO partners use this innovative process to help primary care providers and other practitioners treat chronic conditions, such as hepatitis C, HIV, cancer, diabetes, mental illness and opioid use in the Unites States and across the globe. Project ECHO has revolutionized medical education and exponentially increases workforce capacity to provide best-practice specialty care and reduce health disparities. Learn more at echo.unm.edu.