Contact: Steven Lee, 210-450-3823, firstname.lastname@example.org
SAN ANTONIO, Feb. 2, 2023 – A patient with a substance use disorder in a rural town outside Houston recently needed lab work done before she could be prescribed medication for her treatment. But she didn’t have a ride to the lab.
Not a problem, as it turned out. Be Well Texas, a program of UT Health San Antonio that treats patients statewide for opioid and other substance use disorders, arranged for Lyft to pick her up at home and take her to the lab and back home again. And all free of charge to the patient.
UT Health San Antonio, on behalf of Be Well Texas, entered into an agreement with Lyft Healthcare to provide transportation for patients in need to its clinic in San Antonio, but also for telehealth patients anywhere in the state who need rides to the lab or the pharmacy. Lyft Healthcare is the ride-hailing company’s service for health care patients. The agreement is fulfilling an urgent need.
“About 30% or more of our patients lack transportation,” said Van King, MD, DFAPA, FASAM, medical director with Be Well Texas. “Others have transportation but are limited with their funds because they work part-time, just started working or just lost their job. They have to be very mindful of how they spend their money, and that obviously includes transportation. This helps our patients whose budgets are limited.”
Be Well Texas, funded by Texas Health and Human Services, provides treatment and resources statewide virtually, and in-person at its clinic in San Antonio’s South Texas Medical Center, at 5109 Medical Drive. Patients who are seen by virtual visits statewide additionally can get a ride for follow-up appointments with a primary care physician, if a Be Well Texas provider determines those are medically necessary.
Under the agreement, Be Well Texas is offering access to rides for all patients age 18 or older regardless of their ability pay. Lyft Healthcare ensures compliance with HIPAA and federal and state regulatory requirements to protect patient privacy and to ensure health care rides are handled in a lawful manner.
Be Well Texas personnel are trained in requesting rides for a patient, and can do so for those who do not have reliable transportation or resources to travel to clinic, lab and pharmacy visits – and for those who might not even have a permanent physical address. “We do have homeless patients who are in need,” said Claudia Draper, MBA, a practice manager with Be Well Texas. “We have a patient who came in recently who’s homeless and he would walk and ride the bus to get to our clinic.”
The ride service is limited to medically necessary appointments and laboratory and pharmaceutical services required for treatment for patients of Be Well Texas. For more information, visit https://bewelltexas.org, or call the clinic at (888) 85 Be Well, (888) 852-3935.
The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio (UT Health San Antonio), is one of the country’s leading health science universities and is designated as a Hispanic-Serving Institution by the U.S. Department of Education. With missions of teaching, research, patient care and community engagement, its schools of medicine, nursing, dentistry, health professions and graduate biomedical sciences have graduated more than 41,100 alumni who are leading change, advancing their fields and renewing hope for patients and their families throughout South Texas and the world. To learn about the many ways “We make lives better®,” visit UTHealthSA.org.
SAN ANTONIO, Dec. 13, 2022 – With the U.S. grappling with an unprecedented opioid-related overdose crisis, The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio (UT Health San Antonio) has been been awarded a $1.8 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to research peer recovery support services for people living with opioid use disorder.
While medication for opioid use disorder can reduce rates of disease or deaths, data suggests that certain support services both aid treatment and sustain long-term recovery.
Those services can include emerging “peer” support, in which individuals with lived experience in addiction have specialized training in supporting others during their recovery by providing non-clinical linkages to treatment – such as mentorship, referrals for medical illnesses, occupational training, housing and education. However, there are gaps in knowledge of the approach that limit broader adoption.
“This is what this new grant funding is designed to address,” said Jennifer Sharpe Potter, PhD, MPH, vice president for research and professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at UT Health San Antonio, and a principal investigator for the NIH grant funding along with Robert Ashford, PhD, CEO of RecoveryLink, a recovery support technology company. Potter also is executive director of Be Well Texas, a statewide initiative of UT Health San Antonio funded by Texas Health and Human Services, providing equitable access to treatment and care for substance use disorder (SUD).
“We propose a research network that will provide systematic integration and collaboration between researchers and community-based organizations and develop a pipeline of future recovery scientists to close empirical and practice gaps in peer recovery support services, or PRSS,” she said.
Focus on stakeholder engagement
A lot is at stake with the effort, amid a backdrop of 107,000 opioid-related drug overdose deaths in the U.S. in the 12 months ending in January 2022, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
The Peer Recovery Innovation Network, the name of the new research network under the grant effort, will focus on stakeholder engagement in research agenda-setting, enhance the infrastructure for PRSS recovery science research and accelerate the growth of the PRSS evidence base in priority areas and populations, with training and telementoring as key approaches.
“We will utilize the innovative Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes, ECHO, model,” said Adrienne Lindsey, DBH, MA, director of the Center for Substance Use Training and Telementoring at UT Health San Antonio. “This telementoring model will be used to expose researchers and clinicians interested in recovery support services and recovery science to the latest research findings and best practice, as well as provide a platform to vet research works in progress to get critical feedback from colleagues and subject matter experts in a budding field.”
Expanding recovery science
The effort will expand recovery science by developing a research program on PRSS during medication for opioid use disorder treatment using a novel research agenda-setting approach and an associated collaborative process, training and mentoring, and infrastructure development.
Specific aims include:
“We believe all this will inform development and expansion of services and strengthen the system of care that those with opioid use disorder may use to initiate and maintain recovery,” Potter said.
The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio (UT Health San Antonio), a primary driver of San Antonio’s $44.1 billion health care and biosciences sector, is the largest research institution in South Texas with an annual research portfolio of $360 million. Driving substantial economic impact with its six professional schools, a diverse workforce of more than 7,900, an annual operating budget of $1.08 billion and clinical practices that provide 2.6 million patient visits each year, UT Health San Antonio plans to add more than 1,500 higher-wage jobs over the next five years to serve San Antonio, Bexar County and South Texas. To learn about the many ways “We make lives better®,” visit UTHealthSA.org.
SAN ANTONIO, Dec. 7, 2022 – Be Well Texas, a statewide initiative of UT Health San Antonio, and Hill Country Mental Health & Developmental Disabilities Centers have entered into an agreement to provide substance use disorder (SUD) treatment services to Uvalde residents.
They will jointly provide on-demand, 24/7 access to a virtual navigation hub for peer recovery support services, behavioral health screening, case management and crisis services.
Be Well Texas, funded by Texas Health and Human Services, provides resources virtually, or in-person upon request, regardless of ability to pay. The new services in Uvalde come at a pivotal time, following the tragic shootings earlier this year at Robb Elementary School.
“We knew that people were struggling with their mental health in Uvalde, and there has been a behavioral health care response, but often after a tragedy, substance use disorder will follow,” said Jennifer Sharpe Potter, PhD, MPH, vice president for research and professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at UT Health San Antonio, and executive director of Be Well Texas.
“We anticipate the degree of substance misuse to increase in the community of Uvalde,” said Tod Citron, chief executive officer of Hill Country MHDD Centers. “We understand that the risk of developing a substance use disorder is significantly greater when a loss is traumatic or occurs under traumatic circumstances. We are prepared to offer support to those who are struggling with substance misuse, whether drug- or alcohol-related.”
Under the agreement with Hill Country MHDD Centers, which has a location in Uvalde, Be Well Texas will offer medication and management for SUD, psychiatric evaluations, laboratory tests, and individual and family therapy, in addition to case management and peer recovery support services with professionals with shared addiction experiences.
The services, including medication and labs for treatment, will be offered at no cost to patients who qualify.
Hill Country MHDD Centers will provide assessments for those individuals who present for services and screen positive for substance misuse in the Uvalde community. The organization will be working with Be Well Texas to provide further assessment and treatment services that include medication assistance, counseling, family education and other services that promote recovery.
The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio (UT Health San Antonio), a primary driver of San Antonio’s $44.1 billion health care and biosciences sector, is the largest research university in South Texas with an annual research portfolio of $350 million. Driving substantial economic impact with its five professional schools, a diverse workforce of more than 7,000, an annual operating budget of more than $1 billion and a clinical practice that provides more than 2 million patient visits each year, UT Health San Antonio plans to add more than 1,500 higher-wage jobs over the next five years to serve San Antonio, Bexar County and South Texas. To learn about the many ways “We make lives better®,” visit http://uthscsa.edu.
Hill Country MHDD Centers serves the greater Texas Hill Country Region, including 19 counties: Bandera, Blanco, Comal, Edwards, Gillespie, Hays, Kendall, Kerr, Kimble, Kinney, Llano, Mason, Medina, Menard, Real, Schleicher, Sutton, Uvalde and Val Verde. With a mission of Promoting Independence, Community Integration, and Recovery, Hill Country MHDD Centers has 22 locations, including 14 Mental Health Clinics and 8 Developmental Disability Centers serving a population of over 630,000 within a 22,593 square mile area. To find out more about our services, please visit www.hillcountry.org.
Four-year, $2 million federal grant will more than double rural providers
Contact: Steven Lee, 210-450-3823, email@example.com
SAN ANTONIO, Dec. 1, 2022 – UT Health San Antonio has received a four-year, $2 million federal grant to expand its substance use disorder response program, Be Well Texas, to the state’s 178 rural counties that have limited or no access to resources and support addressing opioid addiction.
With the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) grant, Be Well Texas will lead and assist a consortium of 28 rural provider organizations in building a responsive behavioral health care delivery system with the capacity to reduce the morbidity and mortality of opioid use disorder, or OUD, among Texas’ rural residents.
That will more than double Be Well Texas’ current provider network of 12 rural providers. The growth coupled with Be Well Texas’ telehealth capacity will ensure the availability of opioid use disorder treatment services in all of the state’s rural counties.
“Deaths from opioid-related overdose are one of the greatest health failures of our time, and partially attributable to unfairly distributed treatment resources,” said Briseida “Bee” Courtois, MSW, LCDC, Be Well Texas provider network program manager and director of this grant project. “These types of need disparities led UT Health San Antonio to launch the Be Well Texas network.”
A rural disparity
That disparity appears to be more pronounced in rural than in urban areas. More opioid prescriptions are dispensed to Texas’ rural residents per-capita than to urban residents, which likely has become a source of supply for illegal drug markets and contributor to increasing overdose rates.
For example, while opioid pills were distributed at a rate of 29.4 per person living in Bexar County each year from 2006 through 2014, the rate was 88.3 in Young County in North Texas, according to a Washington Post analysis of a database maintained by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.
Other rural counties: Childress (76.2), Wilbarger (75.2), Brown (68.1), Palo Pinto (66.9).
Bexar County’s number was similar to other urban areas: Harris (35.6), Dallas (28.6), Travis (26.0), El Paso (16.3).
Opioid death rates in Texas might actually be higher than thought since the majority of the state’s rural counties do not report opioid-related mortality. This coupled with the fact that state data systems do not distinguish between urban and rural overdose deaths make it difficult to quantify the number of opioid-related deaths in Texas’ rural counties.
The new rural consortium will be a subset of the existing statewide Be Well Texas program, currently serving more than 10,000 adults annually and consisting of 76 contracted Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) and/or Office-Based Opioid Treatment (OBOT) providers delivering substance use treatment – for opioid use, alcohol use, stimulant use and other substance use disorders – as well as non-severe mental health treatment and peer recovery supports. Commonly used substances include prescription and synthetic opioids, including fentanyl, and heroin.
Aligning with HRSA goals
The consortium’s objective aligns with the goals of HRSA’s Rural Communities Opioid Response Program-Behavioral Health Care Support: to build capacity to deliver low-barrier, digital and/or in-person OUD treatment and recovery support services according to participant needs and preferences.
Key strategies are: