Experts say overdose rates have skyrocketed in some New Mexico counties, and that the state law only allowing pharmacists to dispense treatment medication creates a barrier to care in rural parts of the state. (Photo by Spencer Platt / Getty Images)
Access to medication-assisted treatment (MAT) for opioid addiction is limited in New Mexico, but particularly in rural communities. The Santa Fe Recovery Center is hoping to change that in northwest New Mexico’s McKinley County with the help of a sizable federal grant.
The center is poised to receive $1 million dollars annually for the next three years from the Health Resources and Services Administration’s Rural Communities Opioid Response Program Medication-Assisted Treatment Access grant.
MAT uses Food and Drug Administration-approved drugs like methadone, buprenorphine and naltrexone in concert with counseling and case management to treat opioid use disorder. The center says MAT can help patients manage withdrawal symptoms, reduce intense cravings and normalize their brain function.
Chief Medical Officer James Besante said the center chose to invest the grant funds in McKinley County because it already runs the Four Corners Detox Recovery Center in Gallup, but also because the need there is so high.
“McKinley County is faced with many structural challenges, including systemic poverty and other social determinants of health,” he said. “And not only is there an enormous burden of substance use in the community, there’s very few treatment access points.”
A 2019 report from the Department of Health showed only two of the county’s 10 substance use treatment locations provide medication-assisted treatment.
The center plans to strengthen those existing services while also building out more.
Dr. Besante said that will include telehealth options and a mobile unit that can provide in-person services at various locations across the county. He said it also means supporting area providers who don’t yet offer MAT.
“Do they need training? Do they need technical assistance? What is that missing piece that’s preventing them?” He said of what the center will investigate. “And in some cases that may be more than education — it might also be working against stigma.”
In addition, he said the center will partner with emergency departments, pharmacies and correctional facilities in the area to further lower the barriers to accessing the treatment.
The first year of the federal grant is set to begin on Sept. 1.
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