Medicine-first method introduced to help opioid use disorder

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COLUMBIA – Burrell Behavioral Health introduced a medicine-first approach to its facilities in Missouri’s central region to help clients with an opioid use disorder.

The motivation to switch to this method is due to the opioid crisis prevalent in Missouri, said Carisa Kessler, the director of crisis services for Burrell Behavioral Health’s central region.

Burrell Behavioral Health said in a press release the medicine-first approach will allow patients to promptly stop opioid intake, which can lead to a more effective treatment for recovery. 

The goal of the medicine-first method is to remove the barriers for those struggling with an opioid use disorder from getting medications, Kessler said.

“You wouldn't put hoops in front of a person who might need insulin and so this kind of follows the same model of treatment,” Kessler said.

Before this approach was introduced, those seeking medications would need to see a provider through substance use treatment and then in a follow-up visit get prescribed medication.

Burrell Behavior Health prescribes Subutex, a brand name for the medication buprenorphine, that curves cravings for opioids, according to the Missouri Department of Mental Health and the Missouri Opioid State Targeted Response.

“It helps stabilize the individual immediately and so we are seeing better engagement results, better follow-up results with their treatment,” Kessler said. “You also tend to see a decreased risk for overdose because they are no longer buying drugs off the street.”

Missouri along with the rest of the country has been dealing with an opioid epidemic. In 2017, Missouri had 951 opioid overdose deaths, according to the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services.

Kessler said their clients can choose to seek other forms of treatment after they take medication.

“Sometimes once an individual falls into the medication-first model, they don't need any other treatment,” Kessler said.

Kessler said their hope is for their clients to achieve stability with this new approach.