Opioid Task Force addresses medically assisted treatment

  • Opioid Task Force Coordinator Debra McLaughlin. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

  • Ruth Jacobson-Hardy, western Mass. regional manager of the Bureau of Substance Addiction Services speaks at the summit on myths and facts on medically assisted treatment at Greenfield College, alongside peer advocates Tina Rockwood, left, and Andrew Blais. Staff Photo/Joshua Solomon—

Staff Writer
Published: 1/11/2019 7:26:28 PM

GREENFIELD — Tina Rockwood’s family often asks her when she’s getting off her medication. Sometimes they ask her if she will ever get off of it.

It’s a question she doesn’t always know how to answer, and it’s certainly one that creates some self-doubt about a form of substance use treatment that while is moving into the mainstream in America, still carries its social baggage.

“It really affects my feelings of myself,” Rockwood told a full house of a hundred or so health providers, advocates and community members gathered at Greenfield Community College Friday morning.

The event, “Stigma-Free MAT: addressing the myths and facts about methadone, Suboxone and Vivitrol,” hosted by the Opioid Task Force of Franklin County and the North Quabbin Region, looked to educate on medically assisted treatment (MAT) — an increasingly common way to treat opioid addiction.

While there has been a rise in the acceptance of MAT in the medical field, particularly in western Massachusetts, the typical understanding of what it is, how effective it is and what’s it does for the overall goal of recovery is still debated at-large both in and out of the medical field.

“We saw this as an opportunity to have a really crucial community conversation on medically assisted treatment,” Coordinator for the Opioid Task Force Debra McLaughlin said.

Northfield resident and statewide expert Dr. Ruth Potee presented about MAT, providing specifics on the types of treatment. She noted there’s no “magic wand” to recovery and offered people should treat MAT patients like people who take medication for hypertension or insulin.

“It’s an opportunity to continue to promote education and awareness that addiction is a disease,” McLaughlin said. “The ultimate goal is we want people to recover.”

Treatment is treatment, advocates say, and a barrier is the ostracization of Suboxone and methadone patients.

One issue that continued to come up is the continuity of care for people who are looking for treatment, but sometimes slip through the cracks or can’t find what they need when they want it.

“Every time you discharge from one level of care and coordinate to the next level of care, you have to coordinate the methadone care,” said Ruth Jacobson-Hardy, the western Massachusetts regional manager of the Bureau of Substance Addiction Services for the state Department of Public Health.

Franklin County Sheriff Christopher Donelan remarked while on the panel about the shift in culture at his corrections facility toward the path to recovery.

“Corrections, for the longest time — and I’m not disparaging them — this was the culture, it was because you were not strong and couldn’t do that,” Donelan said. “Our correction officers are not there. They’ve learned.”

The shift in culture is beginning, many said, but there’s a lack of communication between professional fields and among the community and that’s a challenge. Yet, for Rockwood, knowing people are backing this type of treatment is helpful toward her recovery.

“The information I heard today made me feel better about being able to use medically assisted treatment, and deepens my dedication to the treatment,” Rockwood said.


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