Johns Hopkins researchers presented a study of Delaware’s opioid use treatment system to state officials and stakeholders this week.
The review commissioned by the state’s Department of Health and Social Services recommends four broad strategies Delaware can use to improve its treatment system: increase the system’s capacity, engage high-risk populations, create incentives for quality care, and use data to guide reform and monitor progress.
The 14-month study conducted by researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health consisted of meetings with state officials, behavioral health organizations, treatment providers and patient advocates.
Brendan Saloner, the lead author on the study, says with nearly one overdose death a day last year in the First State, clear and coordinated resources are necessary.
“There’s a lot of people out there who need treatment for opioid use disorder, and the reality is there’s a very difficult process that they go through trying to navigate the different points of entry into the treatment system,” he said.
The study makes specific recommendations, such as suggesting the Department of Health and Social Services advocate for an increase in buprenorphine prescriptions in the state, or that the Department of Correction offer medicated treatment options to all individuals in detention facilities.
Lt. Gov. Bethany Hall-Long, chair of the Behavioral Health Consortium, says the new study reinforces goals the Consortium has identified to combat the opioid crisis.
“It validated what we found statewide when we had 600 persons come out,” she said. “The state has a crisis. But putting together a smart strategy with our provider community as well as our research community, and working with those impacted, we will make a difference.”
State Sen. Stephanie Hansen (D-Middletown), who sits on the state’s Behavioral Health Consortium, agrees that the study lines up with the approach she and other state officials have advocated pursuing.
“It’s good to see that we’ve been on the right track. There’s nothing in there that was really new, but it was distilled down into bite-sized pieces that we can now do something about,” she said.
State officials cite recent passage of an overdose system of care bill as one tool to help implement the study’s recommendations.
According to the state’s Division of Forensic Science, there were 345 overdose deaths in Delaware last year, a 12 percent increase over 2016.