Opioid Use Disorder Treatment In Long-Term Care Settings

Opioid use disorder is an epidemic that, as experts have stated time again, is impacting every community across the country. Those communities range from urban areas to suburban communities to long-term care facilities — which might come as a surprise to those who don’t work in the healthcare industry.

Data released by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) illustrate the magnitude of the problem. In 2022, the nation saw a new record for drug-related overdose deaths at more than 109,000 for the year. That same year, federal drug enforcement agents seized more than 50 million fentanyl-laced fake prescription medications.

Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) is an emerging treatment trend for opioid use disorder, taking an alternate track to abstinence. It involves utilizing a combination of medications alongside counseling or behavioral health therapies to aid in a person’s recovery, and experts deem the treatment approach as “highly effective.” The medications involved include methadone and buprenorphine. 

Despite the increasing acceptance surrounding MAT treatment, and the evidence-based outcomes associated with it, there are instances where people in need of care at skilled nursing facilities are denied admission if they are taking one of those medications to treat opioid use disorder. The U.S. Justice Department has stated that the practice amounts to illegal discrimination. 

Not only is it illegal, but it undercuts progress being made toward de-stigmatizing mental health and substance use disorders, also known as addiction. In recent years, more people in need of treatment feel comfortable seeking it and talking about it, which has helped reduce stigma around these conditions — which are more common than people may think.

When it comes to skilled nursing facilities, there are ways to safely accommodate patients living with opioid-use disorder as they recover. Here are five of them. 

  • A skilled nursing facility can transport their patient to his or her opioid treatment program to receive methadone. 
  • The methadone could be transported from the opioid treatment program to the skilled nursing facility.
  • The patient’s treatment provider could prescribe buprenorphine. 
  • A qualified practitioner at the skilled nursing facility could prescribe buprenorphine to the patient thanks to a federal waiver that allows this practice for up to 30 patients when the provider has not met specific counseling and training requirements.
  • Skilled nursing facilities are able to store and administer medications for opioid use disorder just as they would any other controlled substance.

At UnitedRx, we understand that opioid use disorder treatment is more nuanced than a few bullet points, particularly at a time when hospitals are trying to find ways to reduce the lengths of stays and rely more heavily on skilled nursing facilities. When opioid use disorder treatment starts is one of those sticking points, as it relates to regulatory permissions for MAT treatment. 

As a long-term care pharmacy committed to delivering a hometown experience to our clients, we are here to find solutions that work for every facility, leading with an understanding that every patient and every long-term care offering faces its own unique challenges. 

To gain clarity on the options available for your facility, reach out to our team. We would be happy to find a solution together. 

At UnitedRx, we deliver a hometown pharmacy experience to more than 400 clients across the country. Contact us to learn more about how our approach to treatment can meet the pharmacy needs of your long-term care facility.