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California Boosts Access to Opioid Addiction Treatments

ep_jhu / Flickr

ep_jhu / Flickr

Opioid addiction medications will soon be more accessible in California, thanks to a $90 million federal grant.

One project the state is focusing on is helping more physicians prescribe a drug called buprenorphine.

Methadone is the most common drug used to treat opioid addiction. Because it's a narcotic, it can only be accessed through a heavily-structured treatment program. 

But Marlies Perez with California's Department of Health Care Services says the lower-strength buprenorphine can be prescribed by physicians. She says many doctors have been hesitant to prescribe it.

“They're concerned, they're not sure,” Perez says. “They've never worked with these patients.”

But she's hoping to change that by creating a new system with some of the grant money.

“What the system does, it really provides a lot of support, education and training for the physicians that are going to be prescribing the medication," she says.

California has the seventh lowest opioid-related death rate in the country.

But some counties have overdose rates similar to West Virginia and Kentucky, Perez says.

"One of our biggest challenges in California are our northern counties,” Perez says. “And some of those counties have overdose rates as high as the states that are really struggling with the epidemic."

Lake, Plumas and Lassen counties have the highest rates of opioid-related deaths.

The department is also working with tribal leaders to increase access for the Native American population.

The grant came from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. 

 opioid addiction

Sally Schilling

Reporter/Podcast Producer

Sally Schilling is a Davis native and a graduate of the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism. She has reported on redwood poachers robbing national forests in Humboldt County and the dangers of melting tropical glaciers in the Peruvian Andes.  Read Full Bio 

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