At Tuesday’s meeting of the Baltimore City Council’s public safety committee, Gabriel Auteri, deputy chief of staff of the city health department, outlined a plan to double the number of city residents who can access addiction treatment medication buprenorphine. On Friday, the Sun ran a staff editorial supporting the move, suggesting that “[e]xpanding buprenorphine access is a key step in Baltimore’s long struggle against addiction.”
OSI-Baltimore led the initial work to increase the access to buprenorphine with the Baltimore Buprenorphine Initiative (BBI), as detailed in our white paper “Using Buprenorphine to Treat Opioid Addiction: an OSI-Baltimore Brief,” and it is still going strong. An expansion of BBI would be a simple way to meet the city’s goal of greater treatment access. The “hub and spoke” model that Auteri describes is the essence of the BBI project and we would encourage the health department to look closely at BBI as a jumping off point.
In addition, OSI has long been concerned about how difficult it is to know how many people are in treatment at any given moment or how many treatment slots are open in real time. That is why we have been partnering with the health department to conceptualize an IT platform that would allow real time access to treatment availability.
Also, if patients are smuggling buprenorphine into prisons, this may be a good time for corrections authorities to consider increasing access to treatment for those who are incarcerated as a mechanism to help them stabilize before they return to the community.
OSI supports the health department’s goal to meet addiction patients where they are. It is very clear that the more difficult it is to obtain treatment because of any obstacle—travel time, insurance hassles, etc.—that we will see a decrease in the number of people who make it to treatment and ultimately achieve long term recovery.