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Health Department launches right time, right place treatment option

Treatment Services Program Manager Alisa Solberg
by Alisa Solberg08/22/2019 9:49 a.m.
Updated: 08/30/2019

Have you ever wondered why more people with opioid use disorder don’t get help? Research shows only 1 in 9 people receive the care they need, when they need it. It’s even harder for people who also experience homelessness or mental illness.

Long-term recovery can begin now

When a person is ready for change, they need a solution—now. Waiting for appointments and treatment spots doesn’t usually pan out, and a person often slips back into drug use. That’s why we are happy to announce a new program called Meds First. Like Housing First, some people will be more successful in their recovery when their opioid use disorder is stabilized first before they tackle the root causes of their addiction like trauma and mental illness.

We are pleased to work with our long-time community partner the Tacoma Needle Exchange to make this new access point available to people who need it most. Here’s how it works. A client—we’ll call him Joe—comes to exchange his syringes and is offered treatment on the spot. He wants nothing more than to “get off the needle” and put his life back together. His goal is to provide a good home for his daughter who is in foster care. The problem is he can’t manage the appointments or meet the requirements of regular treatment centers. Although he’s tried, he hasn’t been able to achieve long-term recovery.

Right treatment, right time, right place: Help for people who need it most

With Meds First, all Joe needs to do is make the decision to proceed and our staff will see him the same day. He'll get a medical exam, get suboxone treatment, and begin to build a relationship to support his recovery with wrap around services.

Here’s what we expect to happen based on the data. Joe’s risk of drug related overdose will drop 50 percent as soon as he takes the medication. Joe’s hazardous drug use will decrease. We also expect to see a reduction in crime across our patient population over time. A dedicated care coordinator will help Joe make other positive changes like:

  • Find a doctor.
  • Getting a job.
  • Find stable housing.
  • Reunite with his daughter.

How can you help?

  • Please contact me if you are a local prescriber with a Data 2000 Waiver and would like to see how Meds First works or you would like to do a rotation with us.
  • Raise awareness about opioid use disorder. Learning how to talk about this chronic, relapsing disease can help reduce stigma. Also, read our blog post with tips on how to express empathy and understanding to people in recovery.
  • Be patient and kind to people with opioid use disorder.

Thank you to the University of Washington–Alcohol and Drug Abuse Institute, Paul G. Allen Foundation, Washington State Healthcare Authority, Seattle Foundation, Premera Blue Cross, and the AIMS Center (Advancing Integrated Mental Health Solutions) for supporting Meds First and for your dedication to end the opioid crisis.    

Learn more about Meds First.

  1. Updated: 08/30/2019
  2. Updated: 08/23/2019
Treatment Services Program Manager Alisa Solberg

by Alisa Solberg

Alisa helps people with Opioid Use Disorder get on the road to recovery.


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