West Virginia Tackles a Substance Abuse Epidemic with Medication-Assisted Treatment

Advancing Recovery: State and Provider Partnerships for Quality Addiction Care

Field of Work: Improving evidence-based addiction treatment in West Virginia

Problem Synopsis: Nearly one out of five West Virginians in substance abuse treatment uses opiates like OyxContin® and Percocet®, which have become the drugs of choice in the state. West Virginia has the fastest-growing rate of opiate addiction in the country, according to Robert Hansen, executive director of the Prestera Center for Mental Health Services, the grantee organization and lead agency of the Advancing Recovery partnership.

Synopsis of the Work: Despite lack of full participation from state officials, the four providers in this agency-led partnership made internal changes to accommodate medication-assisted treatment. These included recruiting physicians willing to prescribe medication, mounting a public education campaign to overcome provider and public resistance to using medications to treat addiction, and establishing support groups for people using medication-assisted treatment.

Key Results:

  • By the end of the project period, the four agencies provided medication-assisted treatment to some 627 clients who would not have otherwise received these medications. They also decreased wait time for treatment from an average of 34 days to seven days.
  • Medication-Assisted Recovery Support (MARS) groups spread throughout the state. These groups catered to medication-assisted treatment clients, who often did not feel welcome in traditional 12-step support programs where the use of buprenorphine was considered replacing one drug with another.
  • In September 2009, the state licensing bureau ordered Prestera to cease and desist providing office-based medication-assisted treatment. NIATx coaches, the national program office, and experts from SAMHSA convinced the state to rescind its order.
  • In February 2010, the partners selected three additional treatment agencies to join in providing medication-assisted treatment to state residents. With only 13 providers in the state, these additions meant that Advancing Recovery partners were serving over half of the state. However, by December 2010, only one of the new agencies was continuing to provide buprenorphine treatment.