Addiction treatment in New Jersey is not always where people can access it. While drug rehab centers in NJ are fairly easy to find, not all of them are in convenient areas for some people who might be seeking treatment. This problem is especially acute in Pennsylvania, which is why they are attempting to remedy the problem with an experimental program which aims to reduce this gap in treatment availability and could provide a blueprint for other states to follow, including New Jersey.
Project ECHO is their proposed solution. People with substance use disorders are often near a hospital, as hospitals are common even in lower populated areas of the state, but treatment centers often tend to be much more sparsely located, often being concentrated in areas of high populations such as cities and their suburbs. Project ECHO, an already existing program in use around the world for at least 90 disease topics, is an educational system for physicians to expand their range of knowledge about emerging health trends and how to treat and prevent them. The latest addition which is being adopted by Penn State College of Medicine centers around opioid addiction treatment.
Those who are in support of the efforts of Project ECHO say the benefits of the program benefit not only those seeking help for their addiction but also the doctors, as they can expand the range of illnesses they are capable of treating, while offering more access to people who don’t have easy opportunities to find a treatment center.
“Research evaluating the project hasn’t kept pace with the growth of the movement clinically,” says the director of Project ECHO at the university, Dr. Jennifer Kraschnewski. “It’s our goal to create an evidence base to support the model and its ability to mentor primary care providers outside of the urban academic hubs. We also aim to learn how best to grow and use Project ECHO as an intervention.”
Dr. Kraschnewski is also director of Addiction Services for Pennsylvania Psychiatric Institute and is enthusiastic about the possibility for Project ECHO to help physicians become more effective at their job while also addressing patient needs. “What excites me is that Project ECHO gets to the heart of the challenges of treating some of a physician’s toughest patients. We’re creating a community to support and educate physicians and improve the chances that they can provide the care their patients need rather than sending them to a specialist for first-line treatment.”
The program encompasses 12 sessions which accommodate 20 clinicians, including Dr. Kraschnewski, that form a hub and centers around discussing complex patient cases and how to administer effective treatment measures. Those who attend the sessions are allowed to form spoke learning hubs to give further reach to more physicians and effectively dispersing the most up-to-date information on treating patients.
While New Jersey state officials and physicians are not yet participating, if the program proves effective in its goals, it’s only a matter of time before participation in Project ECHO or forming a similar coalition becomes part of the ongoing battle against addiction and overdose deaths in the state.
If you or someone you know might be suffering from opioid use disorder or some other addiction, Discovery Institute is one of the top rated drug rehab centers around. Call 844-478-6563 for more information on counseling and treatment options.