The Role of Primary Care in Addressing the Opioid Epidemic
Primary care practices play and important role in addressing the opioid epidemic. As established hubs of patient-centered, integrated care in their local communities, community health centers are on the front lines of the epidemic and have become a significant source of treatment for those with opioid use disorder (OUD). Patients treated for substance use disorders (excluding tobacco) in South Carolina’s community health centers has increased by 716% in the past 8 years, from 1,000 patients in 2010 to 8,160 patients in 2017. In 2017 alone, 870 patients were treated for OUD by a community health center MAT waivered provider in South Carolina. Different models exist for the integration of OUD treatment into primary care settings that improve patient outcomes, reduce stigma, and support a culture of recovery. Key operational and workforce considerations impacting the delivery of OUD need to be addressed to support primary care providers as key players in treating and preventing this epidemic.