By early March 2020, the COVID-19 virus was making its way across the world, and measures had to be taken to curb its spread in the United States. One of the first steps was recommended self-quarantine — staying at home as much as possible. For those who rely on daily methadone as part of an Opioid Treatment Program (OTP), this potentially meant going without methadone and putting their hard-earned recovery at risk.
Thankfully, with the full support of many of the nation’s leading medical organizations, methadone clinics have modified their practices to ensure patients’ health and safety. Although each state and clinic has its own guidelines, here are some ways that methadone clinics have adapted during the pandemic to ensure patients get the care they need.
Optimized Hygiene Practices
The best way to prevent illness is to mitigate potential exposure to the COVID-19 virus. Methadone clinics sometimes experience long lines and crowded waiting rooms, which are breeding grounds for the virus. So, on top of regular cleaning practices, clinics across the country have added additional Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended hygiene practices into their routines, including:
- Frequent handwashing by all employees
- Regularly cleaning surfaces throughout the workday, especially high-touch surfaces
- Screening both employees and patients to ensure they’re free of symptoms
Increased Availability of Telehealth Appointments
As part of any medication-assisted treatment (MAT), patients regularly meet with their doctor to assess their prescription methadone use. MAT is also coupled with counseling to help patients develop recovery skills. Because of the pandemic, these in-person services have become limited for both the patients’ and medical professionals’ health and safety.
Telehealth appointments allow doctors or counselors to meet with patients online to check on their needs. Virtual appointments also offer new patients the opportunity to enter a MAT program. With state approval, many methadone clinics have made remote or virtual health appointments more widely available.
Expanded Parameters for Take-Home Medication
Environmental exposure risks and lower patient capacity in methadone clinics have made it more difficult for some patients to access treatment. That’s why the American Medical Association (AMA), American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) and the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) have all requested that each state grants blanket exceptions to patients currently in treatment in an OTP.
These expanded parameters would allow stable patients to obtain a 28-day prescription of methadone. Less stable patients would be allowed to take up to 14 days of take-home medication. By getting their daily methadone treatment in advance, these exceptions shorten lines, create less crowded waiting rooms and help ensure the safety of both staff and patients undergoing treatment.
Find a Methadone Clinic Near You
Even amid the pandemic, BAART Programs is proud to offer MAT to patients throughout the United States. Each state and clinic has different guidelines, so be sure to check our methadone clinic’s coronavirus adaptations for the most up-to-date information.
If you or someone you love struggles with opioid addiction, we can offer medical support and counseling services. Contact a BAART Programs clinic near you to learn more.