Treating Patients with TeleMAT

The University of Mississippi Medical Center’s (UMMC) Department of Psychiatry and Human Behavior in collaboration with the UMMC Neuro Institute is using a combination of telehealth and in-person clinic visits to support patients in rural areas with opioid disorders.

The UMMC approach called TeleMAT uses MAT to help free patients from addiction. The medications include drugs that reduce cravings for opioids and also prevent addicts from getting high if they relapse.

The use of TeleMAT was made possible from a two year grant from the State Department of Mental Health in Mississippi and funding from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) within HHS. UMMC will enable agencies in the state and the Federal government to work together to identify patients who lack services for treatment of opioid disorders.

Dr. James Rowlett, Psychiatry Professor at UMMC, “A grant for $1.8 million yearly will be used to create the treatment program.” He reports, “The need for TeleMAT is great. While most treatment programs nationally target an urban population, this program is different, since it will really help in rural areas where very few clinics are located.”

UMMC will provide care from psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, nurse practitioners, and others on the addiction team. Patients will visit the Psychiatry Behavioral Health Specialty Clinic followed by visits with an addiction team members through a live connection facilitated by UMMC’s Center for Telehealth. Depending on the patient, the addiction team may prescribe naltrexone or buprenorphine naloxone.

One barrier to MAT access is the limited number of practitioners with a waiver required by the Drug Addiction Treatment Act of 2000. The act requires psychiatrists and other prescribers to possess a special license and a waiver to prescribe medications plus they must also have specific training.

The Department of Psychiatry will use grant funding to hire an additional nurse practitioner and psychiatrist authorized to use MAT. The waiver allows a licensed holder to provide prescriptions to 30 patients per year with the option to request an increase to 100 patients in the second year.

Patients will be followed via telehealth for monitoring their prescription drugs, education, and other addiction treatments. To ensure privacy and confidentiality telehealth visits generally will take place not in patients’ homes, but at regional mental health clinics. The first patients will be seen early spring.

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