Morristown, NJ – Governor Phil Murphy recently announced new initiatives that take a multi-pronged approach toward fighting New Jersey’s crippling opioid epidemic. These initiatives, which include the elimination of the requirement of prior authorization for Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT), provide for increased access to treatment services, improve Medicaid reimbursement incentives for primary care providers, and add additional training for medical practitioners, demonstrate New Jersey’s increased commitment to remove barriers to effective opioid addiction treatment.
In an effort to strongly support this public health goal, Atlantic Health System and Ammon Labs joined together to host a presentation on MAT for physicians on Monday, March 25, 2019 at Atlantic Health System’s Morristown Medical Center. Dr. Michael Miller, past president of the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) and an addiction medicine consultant to Ammon Labs was the keynote speaker.
“As part of the Ammon Labs Speakers Bureau, we have assembled a powerful cadre of thought leaders and clinical experts, such as Dr. Miller, who provide critical content in the fields of addiction science, prevention, treatment, recovery support, data analysis and more,” Stephen Haupt, CEO of Ammon Labs explains. “Ammon Labs is proud to have Dr. Miller on staff. He is a renowned leader in the addiction space whose keen insights on trending substances have helped us shape our extensive test menu and increase our ability to create highly-customized panels for our clients.”
During the presentation today, Dr. Miller broke down the intricacies of MAT: what it is, who it is best suited for, how it is done, and how it fits in to the context of “addiction treatment” in general practice. He also shared his insights on how physicians can overcome obstacles when introducing MAT into a treatment plan.
“As Governor Murphy’s health policy will likely result in a significant increase in the provision of MAT, the information provided in this presentation is critical to those seeking greater efficacy in the treatment of substance use disorder,” Dr. Miller explains.
“Atlantic Health System is taking an active role in helping physicians understand safe prescribing practices, and improving the accessibility of treatment resources,” said Lori Ann Rizzuto, LCSW, Service Line Director, Atlantic Behavioral Health, Atlantic Health System. “We’re partnering with our community and companies like Ammon Labs to ensure medical professionals and our community are supported and well-equipped with the right education and resources to combat this epidemic.”
In June, Morristown Medical Center hosted then-Governor Chris Christie for a “Do No Harm” symposium that allowed leaders and stakeholders from the medical community and law enforcement to come together to discuss solutions for opioid abuse in our state. The standing-room only, candid forum allowed prescribers to interact with law enforcement and the Department of Health to better understand the benefits and challenges of the prescribing system/law, and discuss potential solutions in real-time. A Do No Harm event was presented at each Atlantic Health System campus in 2018.
The health system hosted community Narcan trainings at each campus in partnership with Morris County Prevention agencies and participated in Knock Out Opiate Day—a prescriber education event in collaboration with Partnership for a Drug Free New Jersey—which highlighted statistics and “red flags” to look for when prescribing to patients who may be drug-seekers.
In 2015, Atlantic Health System became one of the first hospitals in the state to donate Narcan and Narcan/opioid training to local police and EMS departments. Equipping first responders saved valuable minutes and increased the person’s chance of survival.
Atlantic Health System also partnered with the Morris County Prosecutor’s Office on the “Narcan 2.0 program,” aimed at giving another chance at life to persons who have had recent near-fatal encounters with drug overdoses. After life-saving Narcan is administered and the individual is brought to an emergency department, they are met by a peer recovery specialist who will talk to them and offer the person is approached by recovery specialists, some of them recovering opioid users (peer-to-peer), to talk about the situation and offer resources, interventions, treatment, and support in real-time, which can break the cycle of addiction.
Noting the higher-than-normal rate of mental health and substance abuse issues in veterans, Atlantic Health System developed the True North initiative, which links veterans and their families to therapy, resources, and support.
To help continue the conversation, Atlantic Health System was one of the initial stakeholders in the Morris County Stigma Free Committee, which aims to create a non-judgmental environment where individuals with mental illness and addictions feel supported by their community and neighbors, encourage people to seek treatment for these illnesses without fear of stigma.
Since its inception over 20 years ago, Ammon Labs has been dedicated to providing the highest quality toxicology testing for the addiction treatment community. In alignment with the needs of its clients, Ammon has instituted several initiatives to fight against substance use disorder.
Ammon is the founding member of the Police, Treatment and Community Collaborative (PTACC) which brings treatment providers and law enforcement leaders together to create pre-arrest diversion programs to deflect people away from jails and into treatment. An additional collaborative initiative is the Addiction Research Consortium (ARC) which seeks to build a taskforce of leaders from treatment, research and health insurance to identify solutions to today’s most pressing business concerns.
In 2016, Ammon Labs launched The Ammon Foundation, a 501c(3) organization whose mission is to empower individuals in addiction recovery through combating stigma and providing strategic support to enable personal success. The Foundation raises funds to support its two core programs: the Ammon Recovery Scholars Program and the Empowerment Workshop Program. Scholarship recipients, who are in recovery, not only receive financial support to further their education but also academic, personal, and professional support. Empowerment workshop leaders travel throughout the country to provide a six-module, evidence-based and nationally recognized life-skills training program.
To date, Ammon has donated more than 500 Narcan kits to police departments and other community organizations in New Jersey, Maryland and Connecticut. Ammon has also provided Narcan training to state municipalities, local businesses as well as its own employees.