Warren Alpert program will pre-qualify grads to treat addiction

PROVIDENCE – The Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University has introduced a new program to allow students to qualify to treat drug addiction prior to graduation, the first program of its kind in the country.

The 2018 class at Warren Alpert, due to graduate next May, will be the first class to take advantage of the new program, according to a July 7 release from the R.I. Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals.

Under the program, Warren Alpert students will complete the necessary training to qualify for the Drug Abuse Treatment Act of 2000 waiver necessary to prescribe FDA-approved medications for the treatment of opioid addiction. Upon graduating and receiving their full medical license, those who completed the program can apply for the waiver immediately.

Ordinarily, training for the DATA 2000 waiver is not available to doctors until they begin practicing medicine, when the required eight hours of training often interferes with their practice. Without the waiver, physicians are unable to prescribe medication to treat patients addicted to opioids such as heroin, oxycodone and morphine.

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The waiver program was created as part of Gov. Gina M. Raimondo’s Overdose Prevention and Intervention Task Force’s Action Plan, to increase the number of waivered physicians available to provide clinical care for patients suffering from addiction.

“All graduating medical students at the Alpert Medical School will receive 23 hours of substance-use disorders training in medical school, which is far in excess of the eight hours required to obtain the DATA 2000 waiver,” said Dr. Elinore McCance-Katz, who serves as chief medical officer for BHDDH and a professor of medicine and public at Brown, and co-created the DATA 2000 waiver program. “We are pleased to lead the way with Brown University on this innovative approach to the national overdose epidemic.”

Only physicians practicing in Rhode Island can take advantage of the DATA 2000 waiver program, but the R.I. Department of Health plans to encourage other states to consider partnering with local medical schools to certify addiction-medicine curricula that would qualify graduates for a DATA 2000 waiver.

Dr. Paul George, assistant dean of medical education at Warren Alpert, said he agreed the program is important in addressing the opioid epidemic.

“Hospitals and health care facilities are being overwhelmed by individuals who are seeking treatment for opioid-use disorders and cannot meet the demand,” said George. “This program is a significant step forward in increasing the number of physicians who can prescribe medications to treat opioid-use disorders.”

As the state authority for substance abuse for Rhode Island, BHDDH intends to waiver-train more than 400 physicians by 2018. The department added that standardizing addiction training at medical schools could help reduce the stigma around substance-use disorders.

Kaylen Auer is a PBN contributing writer.