The unrolling story of methadone vans in New York is being enthusiastically assisted by Allegra Schorr. She heads the Coalition of Medication-Assisted Treatment Providers and Advocates (COMPA). COMPA represents New York State’s opioid treatment programs (OTPs) which are focused on making methadone more accessible to more patients.
We talked to Schorr earlier this month about methadone vans and more.
Schorr is thrilled that NYS has prioritized increased access to methadone treatment in this year’s budget. That includes OASAS funding for mobile methadone vans, additional OTP locations, and integrating OTP treatment to an existing outpatient license.
Remarkably, there have been two different procurements that have gone out. One is the $1.6 million, which has been announced. That is for New York State. Then, for New York City, there is another $1 million for New York City. Methadone rarely gets this kind of procurement!
The OASAS budget proposal for additional funding was not clear, but there was some concern that this would be a problem. There are the Centers of Treatment Innovations – OASAS lingo for mobile vans that don’t have methadone. New York had such centers in 2017, but the questions for providers in the state surround utilization. New York bought them when they could, using SOR funds. And these vans are being used – but not for methadone.
“They could be retrofitted for methadone, which is not a bad idea,” said Schorr of the vans. “And we are looking forward to working with OASAS.”
There are many misunderstandings around use of the vans. For example, even on the state level, there are questions about how the vans are to be used.
“Providers are looking at different ideas for what is the best use, and what makes sense in a particular case and in a particular region, whether that means supporting the use of MAT in correctional facilities or in rural areas where it has been difficult to reach patients.,” Schorr told AT Forum.
“We need to put methadone front and center, and increase access, but this needs to be done thoughtfully.”
The next steps for COMPA include supporting the vans as a priority. “We are making sure that we will be a resource to help people figure out what makes sense for them, what makes sense for providers,” she said.
In New York, there are 43,000 patients in OTPs. And while guardrails are necessary, there are too many of them, said Schorr. “I’m not saying methadone should be in pharmacies,” she said. “And the DEA is cracking down on pharmacies.”