CODAC Behavioral Healthcare has a new methadone van. The van, the first approved in the country under new federal Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) rules (see https://atforum.com/2021/07/dea-methadone-vans-otps/) Under those rules, methadone can be dispensed by the vans if the vans are connected to brick-and-mortar opioid treatment programs (OTPs).
CODAC, based in Rhode Island, is on the cusp of many innovations in the OTP field, and announced the van approval at the end of July. The van, which will also dispense other medications, and provide other services was made possible by a grant from the Champlin Foundation. The van is 27 feet long and features a counseling room, a waiting area, a restroom, and a security system.
Deployment of the van will start in Woonsocket, Rhode Island, on site six days a week in the mornings, with a physician available on alternating mornings. There will be blood pressure screening, glucose measurement, and mental health screening, as well as telehealth for counseling, if needed. “Access to care is more important than ever amid our soaring overdose rates,” said Linda Hurley, President/CEO of CODAC. “This mobile medical unit will allow us to face that challenge, both geographically and demographically. It will allow us to bring treatment to individuals struggling with addiction and literally meet them where they are in the places where that treatment is most needed.”
State officials support the program; in fact, former governor Gina Raimondo, now U.S. Secretary of Commerce, was vocal in her support for the progressive work of CODAC and for methadone treatment itself. The fact that the state is small also makes it easier to implement innovations; other states could, however, follow what is happening in Rhode Island and replicate it. Political support is key.
Rhode Island Governor Dan McKee stated: “A key element of our response to the opioid overdose crisis is meeting people where they are. This new mobile medical unit from CODAC Behavioral Health does just that. This innovative intervention will help get tools, resources and supports into communities throughout Rhode Island, and will allow public health workers to respond to trends in overdose activity. Recovery and hope are never out of reach.”
K. Joseph Shekarchi, Speaker of the Rhode Island House of Representatives stated: “CODAC again brings Rhode Island to the forefront of the efforts to address the opioid overdose epidemic. The mobile medical unit will bring services to communities [that] have the most difficulty receiving those services and have the most need.”
Dominick J. Ruggerio, president of the Rhode Island Senate stated: “We are extremely proud of the work that CODAC has done, again being the first in the nation to provide a newly DEA-regulated mobile medical unit services to address the opioid epidemic. This is a big step in keeping our friends and family safer from this disease.”
Mark W. Parrino, M.P.A., president of the American Association for the Treatment of Opioid Dependence (AATOD), stated: “I am grateful to Linda Hurley and her CODAC colleagues for being among the first to launch a new mobile van under the DEA regulations, which will extend the reach of CODAC’s opioid treatment programs (OTPs) into underserved areas of Rhode Island. It represents the opportunity to expand the OTP hub sites to reach underserved people in desperate need of care for their opioid use disorder.”
Ben Lessing, M.S.W., CEO of Community Care Alliance, stated: “We have lost too many people in Woonsocket due to opioid addiction and overdose deaths. Community Care Alliance is pleased to welcome CODAC as an additional partner to address this acute behavioral health care need. Access, rapid response and addressing opioid concerns in a comprehensive manner is critical. We believe that the presence of CODAC’s mobile medical unit will help to improve current conditions on the ground.”
In 2016, CODAC launched a program with the Rhode Island Department of Corrections that was the first of its kind in the United States to screen all inmates for opioid use disorder and provide medication-assisted treatment for those in need CODAC is now licensed in Massachusetts to operate an OTP.