CODAC, Thundermist to partner on telehealth for medication-assisted treatment

CRANSTON – A new partnership between CODAC Behavioral Healthcare and Thundermist Health Center will improve access to medication-assisted treatment for patients seeking help with substance use disorder.

As part of the initiative, which begins Monday, Thundermist nurse care managers will be able to teleconference with CODAC treatment prescribers to arrange for suboxone prescriptions for patients when they seek treatment.

The program is the result of a successful grant proposal submitted to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention by CODAC, Thundermist and the R.I. Department of Health. Grant money was used on video-conferencing equipment and administrative costs.

The partnership allows patients who have received an initial assessment at Thundermist to meet with a CODAC provider via teleconference to discuss medication and start treatment.

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Nurse care managers at Thundermist explain how to use the medication, which is available the same day.

The program meets multiple needs, said Linda Hurley, CODAC’s president and CEO.

“Lack of transportation, medication shortages and stigma continue to be a barrier to care for Rhode Island’s recovery community, and we now have an opportunity to reach more people before it is too late,” she said.

Another benefit is the potential immediacy of help, said Jeanne LaChance, president and CEO of Thundermist.

“We need to respond as soon as a patient says they want treatment,” she said. “This program ensures we’re providing patients with treatment when they tell us they’re ready.”

Mary Walton, CODAC’s first physician assistant to use the telehealth program, agreed that even small amounts of time can make a difference when it comes to a patient in need of medicine.

“Many patients might seek illicit drugs to prevent the agonizing symptoms of withdrawal when they are unable to obtain immediate treatment,” Walton said. “As treatment providers, it is disheartening to learn when patients felt they had to resort to using fentanyl or other dangerous opioids to avoid feeling sick.”

The telehealth program is the first of its kind in the state, according to a CODAC spokesman, but similar telehealth services may be available in the future in South Kingstown and New Shoreham, where CODAC is in discussions with other health care providers.

The service also works to protect patients who may not seek treatment because of stigma surrounding it, Hurley added.

“Time and time again, we have heard that patients won’t seek services from an opioid-treatment program such as CODAC because of the stigma associated with attending opioid-treatment facilities. Through telehealth, more patients in need can receive medication-assisted treatment while seeing their primary care physicians at Thundermist, essentially removing a major barrier to care,” she said.