Tackling Opioid Use with the Meds-First Initiative

Our nation is in the midst of an opioids crisis. One step toward solving it is ensuring people have access to the most effective treatment – this can be particularly challenging for high-needs populations, such as people experiencing homelessness. Along with partners from the state, business, and philanthropy, the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation is supporting the Meds-First Initiative that will expand an innovative approach to treating Opioid Use Disorder in Washington State.

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Studies have shown that medication for Opioid Use Disorder decreases mortality anywhere from 40-60%, but the majority of people suffering do not have access to it. The Meds-First Initiative removes barriers to medication and provides treatment at four locations across Washington State: North Seattle, Spokane, Tacoma, and Walla Walla. The initiative creates a "front door" to Opioid Treatment Networks for underserved populations with sites located where people already access support. Those who seek care will receive it as soon as possible and will have assistance to address needs that support their recovery.

“In Washington, roughly two people a day die from opioid use disorder. Our community can and should do better,” said Bill Hilf, CEO of Vulcan Inc. “Our goal in supporting the Meds-First Initiative is to make medication more accessible, and to prove a model of treatment that can be scaled to save lives.”

Guided by Paul Allen’s belief in collaborative approaches to the world’s biggest challenges, the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation support teams up with Washington Health Care Authority (HCA), Premera Blue Cross, and the Ikigai Fund at Seattle Foundation.

Led by Dr. Caleb Banta-Green of University of Washington’s Alcohol & Drug Abuse Institute, the program provides a research-based model of care for high-needs populations, who might not have access to a more traditional medical setting. The sites will employ care navigators, nurse care managers, and prescribers. Nurses and prescribers will provide medical care and care navigators will serve people from first contact through initial medication stabilization, and onto long term health care management and recovery. ADAI will provide ongoing support, training, technical assistance, and clinical consultation for staff. The initiative expects to serve approximately 1,250 patients over two years.