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Pew delivers final recommendations to state on opioid crisis solutions

Researchers with the Pew Charitable Trusts are offering the First State  eight ways to improve its response to the opioid crisis.


Delaware’s overdose death rate is now tied for fifth highest in the country. And

treatment capacity in the First State has not kept pace with the need for services— according to the report by the Pew Charitable Trusts, which analyzed Delaware’s opioid treatment system for almost a year.

Pew recommends Delaware increase statewide access to medication-assisted treatment, through medications like buprenorphine and methadone, and expand medicaid reimbursement for physicians treating addiction.

Pew’s Jerin Philip says a regulatory change could allow opioid treatment programs to distribute methadone through satellite clinics at health centers. “It actually could allow a lot of people who might otherwise be driving an additional 10, 15 miles everyday … to have a place in their community where they could receive the medication,” he said.

Marybeth Cichocki lost her son to an opioid overdose in 2015. She agrees with Pew’s recommendations focused on insurance.  “Medicaid needs to step up. And also private insurance industry,” said Cichocki. “And they need to base treatment on the recommendations of scientific research that says substance use disorder is a long term brain disease.”

Pew researchers also suggest the state focus on services for Delaware’s incarcerated population. According to the report, “people with [opioid use disorder] leaving Delaware correctional facilities are not connected with needed care to prevent relapse and overdose after release.”

The report suggests that Medicaid, with input from the Department of Correction, amend its contracts with managed care organizations in Delaware to require care management for high needs individuals, including those with opioid use disorder, returning to the community from correctional facilities.

Although medication-assisted treatment (MAT) is available in Delaware Department of Correction facilities, Pew researchers found that most people in Delaware correctional facilities cannot access MAT. The report recommends the Delaware General Assembly appropriate funds to allow the Department of Correction to provide all inmates with access to the three forms of FDA-approved MAT.

Lt. Gov. Bethany Hall-Long heads the Behavioral Health Consortium, which received Pew’s recommendations. She says the state should be able to implement some of Pew’s recommendations quickly.  “There are several, there’s probably half of them ...  we should be able to get done before summer.”

Hall-Long says working with private insurers to improve coverage for opioid use disorder treatment could be a “longer haul.”

Last year saw an estimated 419 Delawareans die from suspected opioid overdoses. According to the Delaware department of Health and Social Services, 58 Delawareans have died of overdoses so far this year. Delaware’s overdose rate has risen for the past six years.



Sophia Schmidt is a Delaware native. She comes to Delaware Public Media from NPR’s Weekend Edition in Washington, DC, where she produced arts, politics, science and culture interviews. She previously wrote about education and environment for The Berkshire Eagle in Pittsfield, MA. She graduated from Williams College, where she studied environmental policy and biology, and covered environmental events and local renewable energy for the college paper.
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