A recent report from The Montana Department of Health and Human Services found that medication-assisted treatments for opioid addiction are becoming more accessible throughout the state.
Sixteen doctors. That’s how many providers were prescribing medication assisted treatments in Montana two years ago according to the Montana Healthcare Foundation.
Now, Cindy Stergar, CEO of the Montana Primary Care Association, says that number is closer to 150. That’s more than a seven hundred percent increase in two years for the number of providers who can prescribe medications, like Suboxone, to treat opioid addiction. They work by preventing withdrawal symptoms and drug cravings.
So what changed? Stergar says it began when President Donald Trump declared the opioid crisis a public health emergency.
"A couple things happened. It got a lot of press, people started paying attention and then a lot of federal money started flowing to things like training," Stergar said.
To prescribe buprenorphine, physicians have to undergo eight hours of training. If you’re a nurse practitioner or a physicians assistant, it’s 24 hours.
Now, more Montana providers have been going through that training because of local organizations like Stergar’s that have been hosting training sessions.
A recent report from the Montana Department of Health and Human Services says that the increase in prescribers has led to a rise in the number of people receiving treatment for opioid addiction. The number of Montanans with a buprenorphine prescription doubled between 2016 and 2017.
Stergar says all this growth is just the beginning. She wants to see every physician trained in treating opioid use disorder.
Olivia Reingold is Yellowstone Public Radio’s Report for America corps member.