How has the pandemic impacted addiction treatment? For some people, Covid-19 has kept them from seeking addiction treatment due to safety concerns. For others, the pandemic has allowed them to get treatment for the first time due to loosened insurance requirements. Most insurers currently allow clients to get treatment from the comfort of their own homes, via telehealth.
Unfortunately, according to a recent study* by researchers at the University of Michigan, telehealth rules could be temporary, once again shutting the door on treatment options.
Before the pandemic, insurance companies rarely allowed patients to use telehealth for addiction treatment. Due to safety concerns, that all changed this spring. However, most insurance companies consider the expanded treatment options to be temporary. Many addiction professionals – including the staff at the Kiloby Center, believe this expansion should be permanent.
Allowing telehealth to continue makes treatment accessible to clients in the comfort of their own homes. This is cruicial for those that are prohibited due to finances, location, or other circumstances that usually rule out in-person treatment.
In the new study, researchers recommend three key changes going forward:
- New treatment guidelines that include both in-person and telemedicine-based care for substance use disorders. These should also provide guidance on urine toxicology practices and use of new ways to monitor treatment progress, including self-monitoring apps and other practices.
- More availability of buprenorphine via telemedicine. This includes increasing the number of physicians who are trained to prescribe the medication and monitor patients taking it. This could be especially impactful for rural areas hit hard by the opioid epidemic. Lin and her colleagues currently lead regular training sessions for new providers. This training covers getting these providers started with prescribing, and offers ongoing support.
- More support for people with substance use disorders who are also coping with other mental health conditions, and with the psychological and financial stress brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. Online resources including group therapy online will be key, they say.
We urge insurance companies to continue the practice of allowing addiction treatment via telemedicine even after Covid-19 concerns fade as expanding options saves lives.
If you would like information on telehealth or in-person addiction and mental health treatment, contact the Kiloby Center for Recovery at 866-545-6295.