Financial and other disincentives make it ‘a lot to ask,’ but recent progress that includes more funding for medication-assisted treatment offers signs of hope.
By Joe Lawlor
Doctors’ groups have spent several months trying to coax fellow physicians to become Suboxone providers – apparently to little effect.
Boosting the low supply of doctors who prescribe Suboxone is a crucial piece of the puzzle that if solved would help to meet the treatment demand for the thousands of Mainers in the throes of an opioid addiction.
Those efforts haven’t worked yet. Among the barriers are cultural stigmas to treating patients with addictions, financial disincentives, bureaucratic red tape and doctors believing that opening their doors for drug treatment would overwhelm their practices.
Also, most primary care doctors did not receive much training in addiction medicine in medical school, so they are reluctant to take on new tasks that they are unfamiliar with, experts say.
“We needed a waterfall, but so far we’ve only had a trickle,” said Dr. Elisabeth Fowlie Mock of Holden, one of the physicians leading the effort to expand treatment.
“The uptake has been super slow,” said Dr. Lisa Letourneau, executive director of Maine Quality Counts, a nonprofit that deals with health care policy.
However, there are encouraging signs that some doctors are beginning to crack the code that would expand access to drug treatment by more efficient use of the existing health care system.