OSI-Baltimore is very pleased to share a new report, “Using Buprenorphine to Treat Opioid Addiction.” The report describes OSI’s approach and experiences in introducing and establishing buprenorphine as a new treatment modality to address the public health crisis of addiction. As part of this effort, begun in 2006, OSI and its partners succeeded in making buprenorphine widely available to treat opiate addiction in Baltimore, simultaneously reducing individuals’ risk for overdose.
An important component of the work was our effort to launch the Baltimore Buprenorphine Initiative (BBI). By 2015, BBI had established 10 treatment locations throughout Maryland with 399 treatment slots. We worked with the medical community and the city health department to encourage doctors to receive the training required by the federal government; and, by 2015, almost 800 doctors across Maryland were licensed to prescribe buprenorphine, including 217 in Baltimore City. In 2014 alone, 995 patients were admitted to BBI facilities. Forty-eight percent of patients stayed in treatment for 90 days or more, and 275 were transferred to a lower level of care. Of those, 83% reached the important six-month milestone of treatment.
Since its inception, the BBI model has been replicated in Ottawa, Canada, and many groups from places such as Kentucky, Ohio, Tennessee, New Mexico, and Washington D.C., have come to Baltimore to explore launching similar programs. In our ongoing effort to lower the threshold to treatment, another model we have supported makes buprenorphine available at community clinics.
This report not only describes our process of researching the problem, crafting the program, and tracking results, but also identifies challenges and offers specific lessons intended to help guide other cities and communities interested in using buprenorphine to combat opioid addiction.
Open Society Foundations established Open Society Institute-Baltimore in 1998, as its sole field office in the United States, to develop and test solutions that could be exported to other cities. This report is part of our “Baltimore Briefs Series,” which allows us to share our experiences and approaches addressing significant problems with cities, policymakers, practitioners, and funders facing similar challenges.
We welcome your comments and questions on this brief, BBI, and our other buprenorphine interventions. Our efforts in this area are still very much a “work in progress” as stigma associated with addiction continues to hinder our goal of making buprenorphine treatment easily available to all who need it in Maryland.