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PODCAST: Bridging the gap in opioid use disorder treatment

Margret Chang, MD, assistant professor of medicine and pediatrics and director of resident addiction curriculum in the Internal Medicine Residency Program at UMass Chan Medical School, and her team at Tri-River Family Health Center in Uxbridge have developed an addiction treatment program in the primary care setting. In a new Voices of UMass Chan podcast, Dr. Chang explains how their team-based approach, which includes a dedicated nurse who helps with outreach and focuses on providing a high level of engagement, could serve as model to help bridge the gap in addiction treatment for millions of patients.

“Nearly one in seven people in this country are suffering. We absolutely need this. If we can actually engage these people in primary care, there goes some of the stigma that’s associated with going to addiction centers or things like that, where all they do is simply treat substance use disorder,” said Dr. Chang. According to survey data released by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, nearly 49 million people in the United States over the age of 12 suffer from a substance use disorder. Millions of those people don’t get the treatment they need.

In her teaching role at UMass Chan, Chang is working to ensure the next generation of health care professionals are equipped to handle the opioid epidemic. Part of this includes teaching residents how to engage with patients dealing with substance use disorder and how to talk about care in a way that doesn’t stigmatize patients. Chang said part of the curriculum is getting the medical students into real world settings such as local outpatient facilities or drug courts. She is also working on developing a curriculum for pediatric residents, given the growing need for addiction services in adolescents.

“I love this part of my job, it’s been so rewarding,” Chang said. “I tell my residents you are the agents of change.”

Listen to the full Voices of UMass Chan podcast here: Subscribe through SoundCloudApple PodcastsSpotify, YouTube, or wherever you listen to podcasts.