As a medical billing company, one of our areas of specialization is psychiatry and community behavioral health centers. Due to this fact, we routinely report on topics in behavior health and addiction treatment. A recent debate has emerged as to whether there is sufficient access to the opioid overdose drug known as naloxone.
What is Naloxone?
Just in case some readers are not familiar with this medication, here is a brief description. Naloxone, sold under the brand name Narcan, is a helpful drug that can prevent death from opioid overdoses.
If administrated in time, naloxone can reverse the effects of an opioid overdose in a person. The medication is an opioid antagonist, so it is able to attach to the actual opioid receptors in an individual’s brain. This blocking effect allows the medication to stop the detrimental physical effects of opioid on the human body.
For example, a correct dosage of naloxone can restore normal breathing patterns in a person who is experiencing an opioid overdose. The medication should be administered as soon as possible to any individual who is displaying signs of an opioid overdose.
In some communities, task forces have been created in order to create effective responses to drug overdoses. Solutions include having EMTs and other emergency responders carry the medication and administer it when needed. If given to the individual as quickly as possible, an overdose death can be prevented.
It should be noted that this medication, unlike Buprenorphine, is not a standalone treatment for opioid use disorder or similar addictions.
Is There Enough Access to Naloxone?
Issues surrounding addiction prevention and treatment have been a topic for some time in Ohio. Back in 2017, at the annual Ohio Behavior Health Conference, a major topic of conversation was the debate around the funding and maintenance of addiction treatment programs.
The expansion of Medicaid and the funding of substance use disorder programs has created benefits and helped to reduce the negative impacts of addiction.
Federal and state funding has continued, with states like Ohio using grant money to expand drug treatment programs. In addition, the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services (OhioMHAS) has also directed funds in order to help local communities prevent addiction and help with substance use recovery efforts.
Yet, healthcare providers and researchers have asked whether there is sufficient access to life-saving drugs like naloxone? This is a question that a recently published study in Lancet Public Health explored.
Their findings suggest that naloxone access is not evenly distributed across the United States. In some states, there is insufficient access to this critical medication. Researchers advocate that many states need a greater number of community-based treatment centers and naloxone access points. If naloxone was more available, many opioid overdose deaths could be prevented.
When studying naloxone access points, researchers investigated the three main ways that individuals are able to receive the medication: community-based programs, provider prescription and pharmacy-initiated distribution. The study also looked at the main three opioid types that are most common in overdose situations: fentanyl, heroin and prescription opioids.
An interesting finding was that the need for naloxone varied depending on the type of opioid overdose that was most common in that state or region. Areas that experienced a high number of fentanyl induced opioid overdoses had the greatest need for naloxone.
Inversely, areas that experienced overdoses mainly due to prescription opioid use had the lowest recorded use of naloxone kits.
The study concluded that as states cope with the opioid epidemic, the availability of naloxone kits can reduce the number of deaths from overdoses. They advocate for the expansion of naloxone distribution in nearly every state.
Their findings coincide with recent news reports on the opioid epidemic. The COVID-19 pandemic created new challenges for many community behavioral health centers as well as healthcare facilities overall. The pandemic created more stress and feelings of isolation which may have increased opioid overdoses.
In 2022, law enforcement arrest for fentanyl have greatly increased across the country. At the same time, there has been an increase in overdose deaths. Fentanyl-based overdoses are ones that would most benefit from having access to naloxone kits. This greater access would help to reduce deaths from opioid overdoses, especially ones from fentanyl use.
Who We Are:
ABCS RCM (Advanced Billing & Consulting Services) provides experienced revenue cycle management services for behavioral health practitioners. In addition, we offer insurance enrollment and credentialing services.
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