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Opioid treatment clinics shift to telehealth during coronavirus crisis

Opioid treatment facility in Arizona
Posted at 7:06 PM, Mar 30, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-31 03:17:01-04

PHOENIX — Tens of thousands of Arizonans rely on opioid treatment clinic to get their dosage of medication to fight addiction on a daily basis.

Now the coronavirus pandemic is forcing providers to figure ways to keep more people out of the clinics while keeping them on their medicine.

Federal rules have been temporarily relaxed by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

Under normal circumstances providers have to administer and verify most patients consumption of medications like methadone every day

SAMHSA is now allowing patients with underlying conditions to take home several days worth of methadone and be seen through telehealth appointments.

Community Medical Services (CMS) one of the largest providers in Arizona says the determination is made on a case by case basis.

Jenn Mason with CMS says they determine who is eligible to go home with medicine on a case by case basis.

"What is going on with that patient? Do we feel like they are stable enough that we can give them a couple extra doses and kind of limit how many days they’re coming in or no? Maybe we still do have some concerns and so we’re going to bring them in every day we’ve really taken an individualized approach," Mason said.

CMS says they’ve seen 40 percent fewer patients face -to-face since implementing the telemedicine services in Arizona.