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School and Program Updates

School and Program Updates

East Tennessee and Mountain States Health Alliance Partner in Expanded Effort to Treat Opioid Addiction

East Tennessee State University and Mountain States Health Alliance announced plans to form a joint venture in support of the newly established Center for Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention and Treatment at ETSU. The center was recently approved by the Tennessee Board of Regents after several years of planning, and creates central research and academic-based efforts to combat prescription drug abuse and addiction.

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[Photo: Dr. Rob Pack]

The new joint venture between affiliates of ETSU and Mountain States involves the implementation of one of the components of the adopted mission of the center. Comprehensive clinical treatment for people who suffer from an opioid use disorder is one element of the spectrum of services needed, and adds to an already solid partnership between ETSU and Mountain States in the areas of addiction and mental health treatment. The medication-assisted addiction treatment facility being created, in part, due to this joint venture, will include treatment such as buprenorphine and methadone combined with counseling, group therapy and other social support services that are essential for success.

The approach has been crafted in accordance with the American Society for Addiction Medicine and other best practices guidelines. It will be focused on implementing, disseminating and evaluating evidence-based practices to address the prescription drug crisis in Northeast Tennessee.

“There is significant evidence to back up these treatment methods, which have been proven successful in other parts of the country,” explained Dr. Rob Pack, director of the Center and associate dean of the ETSU College of Public Health. “There is a desperate need in this region for the implementation of these treatment methods. We will only see success in reducing the problem of prescription drug abuse if we provide patients with a full range of treatment options, and that, up until now, has not been available here.”

The not-for-profit medication-assisted addiction treatment facility will be operated by Mountain States Health Alliance with members of ETSU’s faculty also involved in treating patients. All revenue generated through the effort will be reinvested into the ETSU Center for Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention and Treatment to bolster the other three components of the center’s infrastructure – research, education and outreach.

“Prescription drug abuse is a debilitating problem in our communities,” said Mr. Alan Levine, Mountain States president and CEO. “This partnership results in a collaboration to provide a component of treatment necessary to help people with addiction reclaim their lives. What makes this partnership unique is that we couple treatment with ongoing research, prevention and education. This community-based partnership can be trusted to balance the needs of the community with the effort to combat drug abuse.”

ETSU and Mountain States also plan to partner with Frontier Health to help implement the comprehensive continuum of care.

“We are confident that this evidence-based, community-driven service will bring new resources to bear in treating a problem that has reached epidemic proportion in our region,” said Dr. Teresa Kidd, president and CEO of Frontier Health. “Frontier Health will bring therapeutic and recovery-based services to the table to promote an optimal level of treatment for the individuals in this patient population.”

Approximately 60,000 Tennesseans suffer from some sort of dependence on prescription narcotics. The state ranks second in the nation for opioid consumption, with East Tennessee seeing the greatest amount of opioid consumption in the state.

“ETSU was founded in 1911 for a singular purpose – to improve the quality of life for the people of our region,” said Dr. Brian Noland, president of the university. “This joint venture is a prime example of how this institution can work with our healthcare partners in the region to offer a holistic approach to solving a problem that is plaguing not only Northeast Tennessee, but the entire nation.”

A certificate of need will be requested from the state to establish the facility, which would be located on Gray Commons Circle off Highway 75 in Gray.