Like an onion, Missouri’s Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Task Force is peeling back the layers of the state’s substance abuse crisis.

Last week, lawmakers in Jefferson City heard from medical professionals at the Missouri Department of Social Services. MO HealthNet’s Director of Behavioral Health, Eric Martin, explained medication-assisted treatment for an opioid use disorder, otherwise referred to as an OUD.

“Aside from medication would be the counseling services,” Martin said. “MO HealthNet deliberately has not made a requirement that counseling services are must be accessed in order for medications to be prescribed for an OUD. I think that’s the ‘medication first’ approach, we coordinated that with the Department of Mental Health.

The FDA identifies medication-assisted treatment as a mixture of using medication with counseling and behavioral therapy to treat opioid use disorders. Because of the chronic nature of using opioids, medical providers periodically reevaluate if the treatment is working. Depending on the severity, some patients may continue treatment for the rest of their life.

Martin said that counseling is part of treating opioid use disorder.

“They could see individuals for those conditions, but we’re seeing that we don’t have a lot of utilization of those services through MO HealthNet,” said Martin. “It’s mostly, or really, through the CSTAR program. That’s where all of the, they have a much more, much wider array of services for individuals really seeking treatment for a significant substance abuse disorder.”

The Comprehensive Substance Treatment and Rehabilitation (or CSTAR) Program is under the Missouri Department of Health. The program provides a full scale of care from the diagnosis to end of life in treating opioid use disorder.

Martin told the task force that meets once a month at the Missouri State Capitol that the Department of Social Services is looking into alternative therapies for chronic pain.

“That is to, really, avoid or prevent individuals from becoming opioid dependent or using opioids to as a chronic pain treatment,” according to Martin. “Those services include coverage for chiropractic physical therapy, acupuncture, and also cognitive behavioral therapy is covered.”

He said MO HealthNet, which is the state’s Medicaid program, will treat the patient as long as they need to be treated. That also includes if someone has a relapse.

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