Missouri plans to use a new $10 million federal grant to improve access to opioid addiction medication.
A main focus of the grant, announced Wednesday by Republican U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt, will be increasing the number of doctors and nurse practitioners licensed to prescribe buprenorphine, a medication that reduces opioid addiction cravings, according to project manager Rachel Winograd.
“Physicians and prescribers haven’t really gotten a ton of information about where to get trained, what am I supposed to do, where’s my support system,” said Winograd, a research assistant professor with the Missouri Institute of Mental Health at the University of Missouri-St. Louis. “They weren’t taught this in med school.”
Part of the funding will also be used to reimburse agencies like Preferred Family Healthcare, which treats people in St. Louis and Quincy who don’t have insurance.
“I’m excited,” executive vice president Mike Morrison said. “We just don’t have the resources to connect all of the people who are asking for help to the care that they need.”
Much like the MO Hope opioid grant, which began last year and focuses on saving lives by increasing access to the overdose antidote naloxone, Winograd said a key component of the grant’s success will be confronting stigma. Just as some people feel that offering naloxone gives people a safety net to use drugs, it’s common to find opposition to opioid addiction medications because they contain opioids.
“A lot of people really bristle at the idea of giving someone who’s addicted to opioids another form of an opioid even though we see evidence that it works and that people get better and it keeps people in treatment and quality of life improves for a lot of folks they feel like that’s not true recovery and you have to be abstinent if we get want that designation as sober or in recovery,” Winograd said.
The grant allocations come from the 21st Century Cures Act, which was passed by Congress last year and is being distributed to all 50 states.
Illinois will get $16 million. The state Department of Human Services did not immediately respond to a request for information on how the state will use its grant.
Opioid makers in St. Clair County lawsuit’s crosshairs
St. Clair County State’s Attorney Brendan Kelly filed a lawsuit Thursday against two Chicago-based drug manufacturers, claiming Abbott Laboratories and Purdue Pharma aggressively marketed prescription opioids despite knowing they were addictive.
“We’ve been dealing with this opioid crisis for a number of years now, I’m not sure we’re winning. But the pharmaceutical companies, they have a role to play in this. They’ve played a tremendously negative role up to this point, and they have an opportunity, I hope, to become part of the solution rather than part of the problem,” Kelly told Chicago radio station WBEZ.
An Abbott spokeswoman declined to comment because the company had not yet received the lawsuit. A spokesman for Purdue said the company shares the concerns about the opioid crisis and is committed to finding solutions.
Patrick Smith of WBEZ contributed to this article.
Follow Camille on Twitter: @cmpcamille.