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Doing the Work That MAT-ters


Florida State’s Medical Examiners Commission released interim 2018 data which illustrated drug-related deaths reduced by five percent, with opioid-caused deaths reduced by 13 percent (in comparison with 2017 data).1 This recent information released by state officials demonstrates some relief from the opioid crisis that Florida has been battling for nearly a decade, and is welcomed news for those serving on the frontlines of opioid misuse — including SMA Healthcare.

In efforts to combat the ongoing opioid epidemic, SMA Healthcare has kept with current practices by providing clients with new programs and treatment protocols. The Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) program was implemented in response to the Opioid Crisis and is designed to assist clients in their substance use recovery by providing a combination of medication assistance and integrated therapy. Vivitrol was introduced to this program in May 2017 followed by Subutex later that year. Currently, the MAT program provides Vivitrol, Subutex, and Suboxone in order to provide the optimal treatment plan individualized for each client entering the program.

American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM), “has long recognized addiction as a chronic disease of the brain that can be treated effectively with evidence-based therapy, including psychosocial treatments and FDA-approved medications as part of medication-assisted treatment (MAT)”.2 In fact, pharmacotherapies for opioid addiction used in conjunction with behavioral therapies and additional recovery support services (MAT) have proven to be highly effective in the treatment of opioid addiction, according to Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and ASAM.

Dr. James Fenley, Director of Addiction Services, has indicated that since the implementation of the MAT program, clients have stated that the clinic has become a safe place where they feel a source of compassion and care. At least 41% of clients have co-occurring disorders, making the close relationship with outpatient services a critical component of treatment. Furthermore, clients with longstanding MAT compliance usually participate not only in therapy but also in support groups, primarily in 12-step recovery.

During the fiscal year 2018-19, 64% of clients completed at least 3 months of treatment, and nearly half of the patients have been in the program for nine months to a year. At the time of discharge, 54% of clients were employed, and 92% lived in stable housing. Of the 329 clients served in the MAT program during the last fiscal year, 96% of all drug tests administered were negative for opiates. With these successful performance measures, it’s apparent that the MAT program is vital for the clients served and for the community in fighting the opioid epidemic plaguing this state.

1Drugs Identified in Deceased Persons, Florida Medical Examiners, 2018 Interim Report, Florida Department of Law Enforcement

2Advancing Access to Addiction Medications: Implications for Opioid Addiction Treatment, ASAM.