In an effort to combat the ever growing rates of opioid addiction in America, the U.S. Surgeon General has launched a multi-faceted campaign to help “Turn the Tide” and roll back the devastating toll on families and communities across the country.
Through a combination of educating prescribers about the opioid epidemic and mobilizing them to improve prescribing practices, the U.S. Surgeon General hopes to curb the epidemic of opioid abuse in America in a meaningful way by providing the public with information to protect themselves and their families and shifting the way we view addiction through on-site visits with staff and patients. During his recent visit to Knoxville, U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy met with local provider Behavioral Health Group (BHG) in an effort to further understand the status of treatment services in an area afflicted with some of the highest per-capita rates of opiate addiction in America.
The U.S. Surgeon General first toured the Ailor Intake Center, where he had an opportunity to engage with the staff charged with discerning between a patient who is appropriate for treatment, and one who may need a different level of care. Derek Walsh, Regional Vice President with BHG, elaborated on the entry requirements – “In order to be considered appropriate for treatment, a patient must meet stringent Federal and State requirements, in addition to our assessment of their medical condition and overall stability.” The Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services estimates that approximately 70,000 Tennesseans may qualify for outpatient treatment for opiate addiction.
In touring BHG’s Knoxville Citico Treatment Center Medication Room, Nursing Supervisor Haley Green described for the U.S. Surgeon General the practice of perpetually assessing the patient to ensure medical stability: “Every interaction we have with the patient is an opportunity for us to assess the appropriateness of his/her medical care.” Ensuring that each patient is medically stabilized at the lowest possible dose of either methadone or buprenorphine is a critical component of BHG’s focus on safe and effective treatment.
Fielding questions from local media, the U.S. Surgeon General highlighted the need for expanded access to care, and how critical provider education is to ensure that this epidemic can be curtailed. “Addiction is a chronic illness….not a moral failing or a character flaw,” Murthy said. “We have to shift how we think about addiction, because until we do that, it’s going to be hard for us to, ultimately, get treatment for those who need it.”
BHG Regional Vice President Jeremy Wilkerson echoed the Surgeon General’s remarks to local media – “BHG is delivering high quality medical care in the form of Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT), which is the industry recognized “Gold Standard” for the treatment of this disease.”
Behavioral Health Group (BHG) is the largest network of Joint Commission-accredited outpatient opioid treatment and recovery centers in the U.S., delivering comprehensive, personalized evidence-based medical and behavioral therapies for individuals with opioid use disorder. With 117 locations in twenty-four states, BHG has more than 1,900 employees who serve more than 42,000 patients. To learn more, visit bhgrecovery.com.