Four Clinics in Rural Colorado Launch Efforts to Begin Treating OUD, Saving Lives

Mountain Family Health Centers located in rural Colorado had just begun offering behavioral health services to their patients when something became apparent: Many of their patients also had an opioid use disorder (OUD). Administrators immediately realized they needed to address their patients’ OUD in conjunction with treating their co-occurring mental illnesses. In response they reached out to ORN for help in developing MAT services, training staff, developing policies, creating a mentoring program, and creating marketing services. “They recognized the issue and the problem and submitted a request for help to provide integrated services,” says Marvis Doster, RN, the Technical Transfer Specialist for the ORN working specifically for Colorado.

Mount Family has a network of four FQHC (Federally Qualified Health Center) clinics spread out in the mountainous rural region west of Denver, CO. The clinics are located in four different counties, with four different billing processes, adding to the complexity of the request. Oyen Hoffman, MA, LMFT, LAC, MAC a behavioral health provider and Master Addiction Counselor, has been a passionate advocate for this effort, and is the local champion for this effort. “Colorado is on par with the rest of the nation as far as opioid use disorders and overdose deaths are concerned,” Hoffman said. “What this means is that overdose deaths in Colorado amounts to two fully-loaded jumbo jet crashes killing everyone on board every year. Opioid use disorder is a treatable illness—a mixed medical and behavioral health approach to be most successful. We at Mount Family recognize this need and consider this as our ethical responsibility to treat with our new MAT services.”

The goal, says Marvis, is to have all providers waivered to prescribe buprenorphine. As of the end of October, three providers were waivered and an additional five providers are taking the MAT waiver course. Even if all prescribers who take the MAT waiver course don’t prescribe buprenorphine, the course itself is invaluable, Marvis says. One of the major issues to address is the stigma surrounding medications for treating OUD, particularly within the patient population. All staff is being trained about the importance of language and stigma around substance use disorders and the impact it can have on their patients. Additionally, staff have requested training on opioid prescribing practices, as well as pain treatment alternatives to opioids. “This group is so motivated,” Marvis said. “It’s like a gift. This is by far the most intricate and most exciting” request.

After submitting a request in the ORN system, Marvis started a plan of action, working closely with one of the ORN provider consultants Dr. Carol Traut, an addiction psychiatrist. The clinics will begin treating their first OUD patients Jan. 1. According to Hoffman, the MAT program will greatly improve the work satisfaction of the medical staff at Mount Family including the MAT prescribers, RNs, Medical Assistant and front desk staff. “We all will feel as if we are a part of the solution and, quite literally, saving lives by preventing and reducing overdose deaths in our TriCounty areas. If not for the help, coaching and technical assistance of ORN we would be floundering. It is no small task developing and implementing a MAT program at a unique medical clinic such as a FQHC in rural Colorado. Dr. Traut and other amazing MDs and coaches have made this as smooth a journey as possible. We are eternally grateful for their inspiration, passion and nuts and bolts guidance.”