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September 14, 2023 (Cleveland, OH)

The Center for Health Affairs Releases Clinical Opioid Education Needs Assessment

Easing regulations, providing practical actionable information, and creating human connections are just a few of the opportunities to enhance clinician education related to treating opioid and substance use disorders, according to an assessment recently released by The Center for Health Affairs.

The Clinician Opioid Education Needs Assessment was conducted in an effort to fight the rise in overdose deaths. It recommends solutions while highlighting the need to provide clinicians with the tools to practice the art and science of addiction medicine to better navigate the system of care and help patients through personalized recovery journeys.

Interviews of key stakeholders identified by The Center based on involvement in the substance use disorder (SUD) treatment space in Cuyahoga County — took place in 2022 and included doctors, social workers, nurses, clinicians who directly treat people who use drugs, individuals who manage direct service providers, a periodontist, and people who oversee the provision of mental health and substance use services in the county.

Questions focused on the current challenges of treating patients with opioid or polysubstance use disorders, existing educational opportunities, and gaps in related clinical training.

Key findings and recommendations include:

  • Clinician stigma toward people who use drugs is nuanced and complex. Addressing it will require a multifaceted approach that solidifies medical opinions on SUD as a brain disease, humanizes patients struggling with SUD, and empowers clinicians to use the full continuum of care and available resources to treat patients.
  • In-person, peer-to-peer education is valued by clinicians and may lead to improved knowledge retention.
  • Practical information on creating and implementing medications for opioid use disorders (MOUD) treatment programs is needed to enable and encourage more facilities to establish treatment protocols. Organizations with successful programs are important resources.
  • Clinician and patient treatment success stories are impactful educational offerings and may motivate prescriber participation in SUD treatments. Education should convey the impact and far-reaching value of treating people with SUD.
  • Federal and state regulations relative to SUD treatment and insurer requirements can make caring for patients with SUD extremely cumbersome and time-consuming. Frequent education to keep up with the rapidly changing landscape, along with leveraging more immediate forms of information sharing like email and social media communication, can empower providers.
  • Early inclusion of addiction medicine curricula in medical school may normalize SUD screening and treatment and serve to mainstream SUD treatment across the continuum of care. Groups that have strong relationships with medical and dental schools and related professional organizations can be powerful advocates for curricula changes.
  • Multi-disciplinary education for treating OUD and MOUD may expand the reach and efficacy of MOUD – particularly in primary care settings. Targeted outreach to federally qualified health centers and primary care clinics is recommended.
  • Uncomplicated accessibility along the full continuum of care, including access to appropriate community resources, is critical.

The assessment was made possible by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Overdose Data to Action (CDC O2DA) grant, which awarded funding to Cuyahoga County Board of Health (CCBH) and allowed for the partnership with The Center to create the assessment.

You can view the full report, with more details on stakeholder responses and recommended solutions, here


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