DEXTER – Hometown Health Center is participating in a new clinical trial to use telemedicine for the treatment of opioid addiction (or opioid use disorder). Working closely with Bright Heart Health, HHC in Dexter is able to provide telehealth-based treatment of opioid addiction to its patients.

Bright Heart Health is a web-based health care provider that has the capability to offer treatment of behavioral health conditions, including opioid addiction, and is available to the patient 24/7. Though the software and this process is new to HHC, the feedback from patients has been incredibly positive.

To identify patients who may be eligible for this service, HHC in Dexter has begun conducting standard screening for substance use during appointments. The goal of this screening is actually twofold: first, to help the providers understand patient substance use and its impacts on patients’ physical and mental health, and secondly, to determine if a patient could qualify to join the clinical trial and work remotely with Bright Heart Health.

Through this connection with Bright Heart Health, HHC in Dexter is able to offer the full range of treatment for opioid addiction, including prescribing medications that are the most effective and proven treatment for opioid addiction, and without the need to travel into the clinic to receive these surveys beyond the initial referral appointment.

The study is funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) and led by the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) and working in partnership with the Northeast Node of the National Drug Abuse Treatment Clinical Trials Network at Dartmouth College.

Additionally, because this service is being offered as part of a clinical trial, qualifying patients are eligible to participate in additional surveys led by UCLA. Patients who participate in the surveys will be compensated; this portion is being led and managed by the team at UCLA, though staff members at HHC are able to help with questions.

Overall, the study is looking to see whether telehealth for the treatment of opioid addiction supports patients living in rural areas in their recovery.

Due to telehealth connectivity challenges in the Hometown’s rural area, some patients may have to come into the office to connect to Bright Heart. HHC is assisting patients for whom this is an issue. The HHC offices in both Dexter and Newport have iPads and telehealth carts that can be utilized to serve this purpose.

“This program is very exciting for our Dexter community,” said Robin Winslow, CEO of HHC. “We are proud to bring such high-level services that can address the opioid epidemic in our rural area.”

Lindsay Norton, FNP, in the HHC Newport location, will continue to provide Medication Assisted Treatment services. The program in Newport is being redesigned with a consultant reviewing policies, procedures and looking at best practices to ensure we are meeting the patient where they are and providing transportation to reduce the barrier to this service.

Over the next few months, HHC will be implementing substance use screening at all appointments in the Newport office as well. Even though the Newport office is not part of the clinical trial, HHC has engaged with Bright Heart for the Newport patients to ensure they have access to those behavioral telehealth services that our providers feel is appropriate.

For more information on this program, contact HHC at 1-866-364-1366.

Hometown Health Center is a Federally Qualified Health Center that provides medical, dental and behavioral health services in Newport and Dexter. For more, go to www.hometownhealthcenter.org.