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Clients of the Maine Behavioral Healthcare IMAT hub in Biddeford explain the benefits of a holistic approach to treatment of this chronic disease.
PORTLAND, Maine – U.S. Reps. Chellie Pingree (D-ME) and Joe Kennedy III (D-MA) discussed the importance of governmental funding to programs that treat substance use disorder as a chronic disease during a visit Wednesday to MaineHealth’s Integrated Medication-Assisted Treatment (IMAT) hub in Biddeford.
The IMAT hub, run by Maine Behavioral Healthcare (MBH), is an outpatient program that provides intensive treatment and stabilization for patients in more acute phases of their disease. IMAT combines behavioral and counseling therapies with medication that reduces opioid craving and symptoms of withdrawal. The hubs also are responsible for connecting clients to social services and other supports necessary to facilitate their recovery. Once stable, patients from the Biddeford hub are transitioned to ongoing maintenance treatment through primary care providers and integrated behavioral health clinicians at Southern Maine Health Care (SMHC) Family Medicine in Saco. On the first floor of the clinic that Reps. Pingree and Kennedy visited, SMHC offers a partial hospital program, a chemical dependency recovery program, and a co-occurring disorder program. Both MBH and SMHC are members of the MaineHealth system.
“As an integrated health system, our staff works collaboratively to help individuals with opioid use disorder receive the highest quality integrated care both from providers who specialize in addiction and those who meet the primary care needs of the population,” said Katie Fullam Harris, SVP of Government Relations and Accountable Care Strategy at MaineHealth and co-chair of the MaineHealth Opioid Steering Committee. “We are grateful for the work Congress has done to support treatment for opioid use disorder. Federal funds that promote programs that use evidence-based treatment and the social reinforcement necessary to facilitate recovery are critical in helping health systems like ours improve population health.”
Pingree and Kennedy heard from three clients about the difference the program has made in their lives. Andy Allen, who lives in Portland, explained how he reached out to MBH when he couldn’t afford the medication to treat his opioid use disorder. Thanks to IMAT, he has been in recovery for three years and now works in sales for a Maine-based company.
“Coming in to MBH, I thought all I needed was meds. The staff there realized I had other treatment needs,” Allen said. “The IMAT hub connected me with primary care for the first time in years. They create a family atmosphere, and you need that kind of support system for recovery. I’m a better person for it.”
Pingree and Kennedy also spoke with Robert, an offshore fisherman, who is once again able to captain his own boat thanks to the IMAT program, and Dustin, who is receiving treatment both for substance use disorder and co-occurring mental illness.
Though all three men work full-time, Allen and Robert do not have health insurance. Robert’s care is paid for through state grants, and Allen receives free care as part of Southern Maine Health Care’s free care program. Dustin’s treatment is funded through MaineCare, Maine’s Medicaid program.
“Today we heard from three individuals who have regained their personal and professional lives because they were able to access treatment for their substance use disorder through an integrated, holistic approach,” Rep. Pingree said. “All Mainers who are struggling with addiction should have the opportunity to get their lives back, but treatment is out of reach for so many because Governor LePage is playing politics with Medicaid Expansion. It’s time for Governor LePage to stop ignoring Maine’s opioid epidemic and open the doors to treatment for thousands in need.”
“For our neighbors and loved ones battling a substance use disorder, MaineHealth and similar health care centers around the country offer more than just treatment; they offer compassion and an irreplaceable lifeline,” Rep. Kennedy said. “By filling the gaps in a badly broken behavioral health care system, the leadership, staff and volunteers working tirelessly to integrate care here in Maine are creating a model that can be replicated in every corner of our nation. I am deeply grateful to my colleague, Congresswoman Pingree, for not only welcoming me to Biddeford, but for being a leader in our fight to confront this epidemic in Congress.”
MaineHealth has made patient enrollment in holistic opioid use treatment programs a strategic goal. The organization served 922 patients between July 2017 and June 30, 2018.
About the MaineHealth hub-and-spoke IMAT program
The Integrated Medication-Assisted Treatment (IMAT) program is an program that ensures patients in need of treatment for opioid use get the care they need, from their local health system within the MaineHealth family, regardless of ability to pay. The program leverages the resources of Maine Behavioral Healthcare and primary care Patient Centered Medical Homes throughout the MaineHealth footprint, and it is designed so that all patients get the best quality of care, at the level they need and at a location as close to home as possible. Patients who need intensive services will get care by providers with special addiction training until they are more stable and able to transition their care to primary care where they can continue receiving IMAT. If a patient’s condition worsens, they can switch back to intensive care for more help until they become more stable and ready to return to receiving care at a primary care office. Learn more here.
About Maine Behavioral Healthcare
Maine Behavioral Healthcare is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization serving more than 20,000 children, adolescents and adults at over 30 locations throughout southern, western, and mid-coast Maine, providing a continuum of coordinated mental healthcare from outpatient community offices to inpatient acute care at Spring Harbor Hospital. For more information, please visit mainebehavioralhealthcare.org.
About Southern Maine Health Care
Southern Maine Health Care (SMHC) is a national award-winning healthcare system with a non-profit mission “to improve the health and health care of the communities we serve.” SMHC includes a full service, acute care medical center in Biddeford, with York County’s only inpatient mental health unit. Emergency care, surgical services, and diagnostic and therapy services are available at SMHC’s Medical Centers in Biddeford and Sanford. SMHC offers primary care and multi-specialty physician services, diagnostic and therapy services, and Walk-In Care centers in various York County communities including Biddeford, Kennebunk, Saco, Sanford and Waterboro. SMHC is Joint Commission accredited and has been recognized for quality excellence by numerous outside organizations. To learn more about SMHC and SMHC providers, visit www.smhc.org, https://www.youtube.com/c/smhcorgme, or https://twitter.com/SMHCHealth.