New program for opioid abuse planned for fall in Clallam County

PORT ANGELES — Olympic Medical Physicians is working to develop a medicine-assisted treatment program for patients with opioid use disorder.

It’s part of a greater effort to address the opioid and heroin epidemic in the community, said Dr. Joshua Jones, chief physician officer.

The program, which Jones hopes will be up and running by fall, would provide Suboxone and Vivitrol to patients. Opioid use disorder is a medical condition characterized by a problematic pattern of opioid use that causes clinically significant impairment or distress.

Suboxone is commonly used as a substitute to help people addicted to opioids live a normal life. It does not cause euphoria, or a “high,” when used as prescribed, doctors have said.

Vivitrol is a monthly injection that blocks opioids.

“We want to have options for people,” Jones said. “If Suboxone doesn’t work, there’s at least something else to try.”

The program would be paired with mental health, he said. By the end of the year he plans to have counselors and social workers embedded in OMP’s clinics that would help with the program.

“Opioid use disorder is a primary care issue,” he said. “If you’re a primary care clinic who has or may prescribe opioids, there is a responsibility to treat the side effects.

“As the primary care clinic of Olympic Medical Center, we feel it’s our duty to respond to the needs of the community.”

Initially it would be open only to existing OMP patients, but would eventually accept new patients as the program grows, he said.

It would start with at least four doctors prescribing Suboxone, though Jones would like every doctor at OMP to be certified.

A nurse would run the program while doctors would provide the prescriptions, he said.

Prescribers must go through training before they can prescribe Suboxone, training that Jones believes is necessary for any doctor.

“I think it’s important for all physicians to have that level of knowledge,” he said. “The training includes a lot of information about opioid use disorder.”

Jones anticipates the program would partner with other organizations in the community.

“When one of us says ‘hey, we’re doing this,’ it’s unlikely any of us are doing this alone,” he said. “Everybody is trying to work on this together.”

OMP would not be the first to prescribe Vivitrol in Clallam County, though it isn’t widely used, said Dr. Chris Frank, Clallam County Health Officer.

“It’s the kind of thing where all of the programs need to include all of these options,” he said. “I think everybody is building their capacity.”

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Reporter Jesse Major can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56250, or at jmajor@peninsuladailynews.com.

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