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County pursues more medication-assisted treatment 

SLO County wants to make it easier for residents battling substance abuse, in particular, opioid addiction, to get medication to help their recovery.

The SLO County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously on March 26 to allow the county Health Agency to apply for a $150,000 grant from the California Department of Health Care Services that would allow it to expand access to medication-assisted treatment (MAT) to three additional locations in North and South County. The agency hopes that increasing the availability of treatment will help combat opioid overdose deaths.

click to enlarge TREATING ADDICITON SLO County wants to add additional locations where residents struggling with opioid addiction can get medication like methadone (above) as part of their treatment. - PHOTO COURTESY OF THE FDA
  • Photo Courtesy Of The FDA
  • TREATING ADDICITON SLO County wants to add additional locations where residents struggling with opioid addiction can get medication like methadone (above) as part of their treatment.

MAT uses FDA-approved prescription medications, often in combination with counseling and behavioral therapy, to provide treatment of substance use disorders. One of the more common MAT medications is methadone, which is used to treat heroin and opioid addiction.

Currently, the Health Agency's Behavioral Health Department operates three licensed and certified locations for MAT services in Grover Beach, Atascadero, and SLO. The SLO County Jail also has a MAT program. Even with the three sites, it's not always convenient for individuals with opiate use disorders to travel to those locations, a Health Agency staff report stated. If the county obtains the grant, it would expand MAT services to existing locations in Morro Bay and Paso Robles, as well as a yet-to-be-determined location in South County.

"The Health Agency is looking for a South County health care partner location, as many clients travel to Santa Maria to access Aegis Treatment Centers for methadone, despite other medication options available," the staff report stated.

The grant is competitive, and has a goal of adding more than 200 new access points for MAT services in rural and urban areas across the state.

The county is seeking the grant as it continues to mitigate the impact of the national opioid addiction crisis in its own backyard. Opioid-related overdose deaths in SLO County have sharply increased since 2012. In 2017, the county logged 36 opioid overdose deaths, up from 34 in 2016 and matching a record high of 36 in 2015. Data on overdose deaths from 2018 has not been released.

To combat the crisis, the county has taken a number of steps, including creating the Opioid Safety Coalition, seeking to expand MAT services in the jail, and increasing the use and availability of the anti-overdose drug, naloxone. The county is also involved in a massive class-action federal lawsuit against opioid drug manufactures, marketers, and distributors. Δ

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