NY assemblywoman to host free addiction treatment course

A free Buprenorphine Waiver Training will be hosted in partnership with local agencies and providers

By Jen Jackson
Watertown Daily Times 

WATERTOWN, N.Y. — Assemblywoman Addie A.E. Jenne, D-Theresa, hopes to attract north country general practitioners to next month’s training to prescribe a Medicine Assisted Treatment for addiction.

A free Buprenorphine Waiver Training will be hosted by Ms. Jenne’s office in partnership with local agencies and providers at the end of August. Buprenorphine is used to help people quit heroin or other opiates and relieve the pain of withdrawal.

Ms. Jenne encourages doctors and especially nurse practitioners and physician assistants to take the continuing education opportunity, even if it’s outside some comfort zones.

“We’re really targeting nurse practitioners and physician assistants, who in Northern New York do a lot of the heavy lifting (of primary care,)” Ms. Jenne said. “It’s not an easy area to practice in; often times there’s a lot of stigma associated ... but we’re starting to grow the number of practitioners doing this as they’re seeing how the opioid epidemic is impacting our community.”

Until last year, the federal government didn’t allow nurse practitioners and physician assistants to prescribe Buprenorphine, among other MAT drugs, for addiction. Now these providers can become certified but training opportunities in some areas are few and far between.

In 2016, 23 people in Jefferson County died of confirmed drug overdoses, at least 16 of which, though likely more, were caused by opiates.

As of June 29, there have been nine confirmed deaths by overdose this year and seven pending toxicology. Three of those deaths occurred in the six days between Friday, June 23, and Thursday, June 29.

Ms. Jenne said of the half dozen healthcare professionals already signed up for the August course in Watertown, some are attending from several hours away.

“The challenge is that not a lot of doctors are yet taking these trainings, and the trainings are not widely offered,” she said.

Before Credo Community Center’s Opioid Treatment Program began last September, the closest medication assisted therapy and treatment option was over an hour away.

“Now we’re the only OTP between Syracuse and Plattsburgh,” Credo Executive Director James P. Scordo said in April.

Credo’s outpatient clinic offers the full range of medical treatment for opioid addiction, with assistance from the state Office of Alcohol and Substance Abuse Services and is sanctioned to treat up to 100 patients.

“One of the things we know is getting off opiates like heroin is not just difficult, but includes severe symptoms and can be extremely painful,” Ms. Jenne said.

Results can vary widely and the treatment is polarizing, but studies, including research published in the Journal of Addictive Diseases and the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, show that patients receiving methadone — another MAT medication — were by far more likely to stay in treatment, and less likely to relapse than their counterparts not receiving methadone doses or receiving placebo medication.

Ms. Jenne cites the region’s overall health care shortage as an added challenge for those seeking addiction treatment and sees general practitioners as an important piece of the puzzle. She believes patients may be more likely to reach out to the providers they already know and trust.

“Even is (a provider) treats only a handful of times, that’s a handful of people, a handful of families,” Ms. Jenne said.

The training, which is in part completed online, will hold the in-person portion from 4 to 8:30 p.m. on Thursday, Aug. 24 at Savory Downtown, 300 Washington St., Watertown.

Copyright 2017 Watertown Daily Times 

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