On Wednesday, June 12, the Institute for Research, Education and Training in Addictions (IRETA) will host a community symposium on the subject of barriers to high-quality addiction treatment. Located at Rodef Shalom Congregation in Shadyside, the event will commemorate IRETA’s 20th anniversary as a Pittsburgh-based nonprofit dedicated to promoting best practices in the treatment of addiction.
Given the scale of the opioid epidemic and its disproportionate impact on western Pennsylvania, much attention has been dedicated to expanding treatment availability and helping provide warm handoffs to treatment for those in need. However, the issue of uneven treatment quality has not been at the forefront of the discussion.
“If you’re only talking about treatment access, you’re missing half of the conversation,” said IRETA Executive Director Dr. Peter Luongo. “Why spend so much energy getting people into treatment if that doesn’t translate to a reasonable likelihood of a sick person getting well?”
Addiction treatment is characterized by a lack of transparency and a lack of accountability. Nationally, there is no reliable rating system for addiction treatment facilities, leaving help-seekers and their loved ones in the dark. Furthermore, only a third of specialty addiction treatment providers offer patients with opioid addiction even one of the three FDA-approved medications for the disorder, although these medications have been established as the standard of care.
These issues affect us locally. In Allegheny County, under- and uninsured people with opioid use disorders are offered FDA-approved medications less than half of the time. We also see quality concerns reflected in low rates of treatment engagement: a 2018 external review showed that 4 in 5 Pennsylvanians diagnosed with a substance use problem discontinued addiction treatment within one month of initiating it.
Dr. Luongo said that we owe it to people who are struggling and their loved ones to do better. “Seeking help when you have an addiction is difficult. We should ensure that the help people receive is the highest-quality we can provide. We have an ethical obligation to look closely at treatment quality and take steps to improve it.”
The symposium consists of a reception and a panel discussion among experts in the field of addiction treatment. Panel members will be David Loveland, PhD, Margaret Jarvis, MD, DFASAM, Brooke Feldman, MSW, and Stuart Fisk, CRNP, MSN.
The event is completely free. A select number of tickets are available for members of the public. Learn more and register at ireta.eventbrite.com