Behavioral Health Commissioner: 100% MAT Availability in Philadelphia by January 1, 2020


For Immediate Release

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Media Contact: Joel Avery, 215-917-1618

Behavioral Health Commissioner: 100% MAT Availability in Philadelphia by January 1, 2020

PHILADELPHIA – Behavioral Health Commissioner David T. Jones today announced that by January 1, 2020 individuals with opioid use disorder in Philadelphia will be able to access Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT), the gold standard for treating opioid addiction, through any of the 80 residential drug treatment programs under contract with the city.

While some form of MAT is available now at most programs, the behavioral health department’s Community Behavioral Health (CBH) division issued, and is enforcing, a contract mandate to achieve 100% MAT availability throughout Philadelphia’s entire residential drug treatment system by the announced deadline. The behavioral health department has achieved 65 percent availability to date. Any residential program that does not make MAT available by January 1, 2020 will not have their provider agreement with CBH renewed.

“Medication-Assisted Treatment is the most effective treatment available for stabilizing an individual experiencing opioid withdrawal, curbing their cravings and preventing relapse,” said Commissioner Jones. “It’s helping us keep more people with opioid use disorder alive and in long-term sustainable recovery than any other form of treatment.”

MAT is the use of Methadone, Buprenorphine and Vivitrol in combination with behavioral therapies and counseling. It can reduce mortality rates among individuals with opioid use disorder by more than 50 percent. The behavioral health department, which spearheads addiction treatment for the city, has made expanding access to MAT and increasing its use and availability its top strategy in fighting back against the opioid crisis, which continues dominating Philadelphia’s spending on treatment for substance use disorder.

CBH, the public health insurance payer within the Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual disAbility Services (DBHIDS), spent $83.7 million on opioid use disorder treatment in 2016 and $90.3 million in 2017. By comparison, CBH spent just under $30 million treating people for cocaine addiction in both 2016 and 2017 and did not exceed $27 million on treatment for alcoholism either year.

“When it comes to treating Philadelphians for any kind of substance use disorder, opioid use disorder continues to account for the lion’s share of our direct treatment costs making it even more critical for us to expand the use of MAT across the city,” Commissioner Jones said.

In addition to requiring 100% MAT availability by January 1, 2020, the behavioral health department added 3,000 MAT slots for opioid use disorder bringing the city’s total MAT capacity to 12,479 slots of which 23% or 2,900 are currently available – 1,070 available for Methadone and 1,836 for Buprenorphine and Vivitrol.

Perhaps equally impressive is that of the 453 health care professionals in Philadelphia who completed the necessary training to obtain a waver required to prescribe Buprenorphine for treating opioid use disorder, almost half – 217 – came through the DBHIDS Buprenorphine waver trainings resulting in up to 21,700 Philadelphians gaining access to this highly effective medication. DBHIDS Buprenorphine waver trainings are available to any doctors, physician assistants and nurse practitioners seeking to obtain their waver to prescribe Buprenorphine.

“We are seeing both the rate and the distinct number of individuals with opioid use disorder participating in Medication-Assisted Treatment increase as a direct result of our continued focus on expanding MAT access and availability across Philadelphia,” said Commissioner Jones.

A comparison of the third quarter across Fiscal Years 2015 through 2018 shows a 36 percent increase in the number of distinct individuals participating in MAT. An even more dramatic 83 percent increase is shown for the number of individuals receiving Buprenorphine over the same period.

To further expand access to, availability of and use of MAT in Philadelphia, DBHIDS, largely through its CBH division: * Deploys mobile access units daily to Kensington to bring community members addicted to opioids into treatment while maintaining a weekly presence at the mural arts Kensington Storefront.

* Removed barriers preventing people from accessing MAT including urine drug screenings, vital signs and prescriber letters while reducing the use of IDs for accessing treatment.

* Conducts warm handoffs to treatment at hospital emergency rooms since many survivors of overdose are transported to the ER.

* Provided funding for the expansion of Temple Episcopal Crisis Response Center, which will increase the hospital’s capacity to engage, assess and treat people with opioid use disorder.

* Provided funding for the city's first 24/7 opioid treatment unit, Access Point at NET, which offers MAT around-the-clock for immediate withdrawal stabilization enabling families to bring loved ones in for treatment the moment they say they’re ready.

* Conducted 26 two-day trainings to help clinicians completing assessments for opioid use disorder accurately determine the appropriate level of care for people on an individual basis.

* Conducts a monthly series supporting drug treatment programs in aligning substance use services with best practice and incentivizing them to enhance the quality of their substance use disorder screening, treatment and workforce.

Janine Weeks