Michigan Association of Health Plans

Michigan falls short in frontline treatment for opioid crisis

Originally published by Bridge Magazine.

A little more than three years ago, William Powers was well on his way to death from an opiate overdose.

A self-described longtime drug addict, Powers, 61, said he had been despondent for years over the death of his daughter in 2010.

“It was like every other day, I was trying to kill myself. I was taking any kind of street drug ‒ oxycodone, fentanyl, morphine, heroin. They found me unconscious in Jackson. I woke up six days later in the psych ward.”

That was at the VA Ann Arbor Healthcare System, where the U.S. Navy veteran was introduced to a treatment drug called buprenorphine. He credits the opiate substitute with keeping him alive.

“It literally gave me back my life,” Powers said. “I never thought anything would get me off those drugs. I thought for sure I would die trying to get high.”

Multiple studies have found that buprenorphine, as part of a broader treatment plan, can indeed save lives. And yet a recent report found Michigan suffers a critical shortage of doctors certified to prescribe the drug, even as opioid deaths continue to rise.

According to analysis by Avalere Health, a Washington D.C. healthcare consulting firm, Michigan ranks in the bottom 10 states in the ratio of certified doctors compared to opiate deaths.

“We could certainly be doing better. The shortage of doctors willing to provide this type of therapy has been ongoing for a number of years,” said Pooja Lagisetty, a physician and University of Michigan health researcher. It’s Lagisetty who prescribed buprenorphine to Powers at the Ann Arbor VA.

She is among roughly 670 Michigan doctors listed as certified to prescribe buprenorphine, according to federal data compiled by Avalere. (Avalere’s national database only lists physicians who agree to have their name published. State health officials say there are approximately 1,400 certified prescribers in the state, though it’s unclear how many actively prescribe.)

For more information visit: https://www.bridgemi.com/quality-life/michigan-falls-short-frontline-tre…