BCBSRI review: Addiction treatment benefits from peers, meds, primary care

PROVIDENCE – Peer recovery participants tend to stay longer in substance abuse treatment when the programs are accompanied by medication-assisted treatment and a primary care doctor, according to an assessment released last week by Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island.

Peer recovery programs include support from people who have experienced both addiction and recovery.

Blue Cross identified the links when reviewing peer recovery coaching and its partnership with Anchor Recovery Community Center, a program of The Providence Center.

The insurer’s review analyzed three years of data from commercial members who were also participants in the Anchor program.

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Program participants who were on medication-assisted treatment were 65% more likely to stick with substance abuse treatment, and those who had a primary care doctor were 73% more likely, the review found.

“Peer recovery, when combined with having a primary care provider and receiving medication-assisted treatment, has a significant impact on whether someone stays connected to treatment. This is an important distinction and highlights the critical factors needed to help those dealing with substance use disorders,” said Rena Sheehan, managing director of clinical integration at Blue Cross.

Analysis of Anchor Recovery’s program also found that medical and pharmacy costs dropped by 12% for participants. Long-term, savings are predicted to amount to a 67% decrease in health care costs.

“I am very pleased to have the results [of the evaluation] validate the work that the peer recovery coaches have accomplished with those in the community experiencing a substance use disorder,” said Deb O’Brien, president and chief operating officer of The Providence Center. “This year, Anchor celebrates 10 years helping those who are struggling with addiction find not only hope but a way back to a healthy lifestyle. While there are many paths to recovery, providing a network of peers and recovery-oriented programming is crucial.”