The Penobscot Community Health Center plans to start giving patients same-day access to Suboxone, so those with a substance abuse disorder can immediately start the treatment and recovery process.
"There's increasing evidence that giving people medication first then working with them on the other aspects of recovery program may be a better approach," said Dr. Noah Nesin, the Chief Medical Officer at the Penobscot Community Health Center. "Especially for populations of people at the highest risks."
Nesin describes those at "high-risk" as people who lack a support system, those who may not have the financial ability to afford treatment, and people who have been recently incarcerated.
According to Nesin about 35,000 people in Maine suffer from a substance abuse disorder, but only around 10% of them are receiving treatment.
"Last year we treated 600 people for opioid abuse disorder," Nesin said. "This year, so far, we've treated 400 people, so we intend to provide as much as a resource for the people in our community, and in our region, as possible."
PCHC is also working with St. Joseph Hospital.
St Joseph can now treat patients with Suboxone, knowing there is a guarantee of immediate follow up care.
Nesin said many physicians working at St. Joseph do not have an "x-waiver."
This means that under federal rules, they can only prescribe three days worth of Suboxone.
Nesin stated PCHC currently has around 30 people with "x-waivers," but expect to have an additional 10 certified by the end of the year.
"We are lucky here we have PCHC and St. Joe's who are willing to say 'yes' to solving the problem. They're using an innovative approach and looking at what works," said Patty Hamilton, Bangor's Director of Public Health.
In addition to same-day access to Suboxone, Nesin said PCHC will continue recommending patients to other types of treatment, such as counseling.
He hopes this new program will encourage people to seek help and get treatment.
"I think it's important for us to continually remind our staff, the public, even those with opioid use themselves, this is a disease. This is how we would treat any disease."
Nesin said he hopes same-day access to Suboxone will start in the next few months.