SAMHSA Grant Will Help Train PAs to Treat OUD Patients

PAEA is a partner in a $12 million grant just awarded to the American Academy of Addiction Psychiatry (AAAP) to provide technical assistance training on “evidence-based practices to combat the nation’s opioid crisis.” The activities funded by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) grant will help train PA educators and students to treat opioid use disorder (OUD), including becoming eligible for the Drug Enforcement Agency waiver that is required to prescribe buprenorphine as Medication Assisted Treatment for OUD.

PAEA’s share of the grant will be $211,000 per year for two years. This money will fund a full-time project director and part-time administrative support for a program designed to: (1) encourage PA faculty to complete the 24 hours of training needed to be eligible to prescribe buprenorphine and (2) to incorporate this training into their didactic and clinical training so that students graduate already waiver-eligible, which will add another string to their bow as they look for jobs and enter practice. One goal of the grant is to have 30 percent of PA faculty and 30 percent of PA students waiver-eligible by 2020.

We will be soliciting applications for the project director position in the next month. If you are interested in this position, polish up your resume and stay tuned for a formal announcement through PAEA channels.

40,000 Lives and $500 Billion at Stake

The opioid epidemic, which the White House declared a “public health emergency” in October 2017, has steadily been worsening for at least the past two decades. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the number of deaths from all opioids (including prescription opioids and heroin) has quintupled since 1999, and more than 40,000 Americans died from opioid overdoses in 2016. The economic impact is also enormous: According to a recent study from the Council of Economic Advisors, the economic costs of the opioid crisis — including those related to health care, lost productivity, law enforcement, and court proceedings — were more than $500 billion in 2015, nearly 3% of the nation’s GDP.

“The opioid epidemic is a public health crisis of massive proportions — more than 115 people are dying each day, on average,” said PAEA President Lisa Mustone Alexander, EdD, MPH, PA-C. “It is important that we as PA educators take responsibility to prepare students with the knowledge, attitudes, and skills that they will need to become part of the solution. This grant will help train the next generation of PAs to treat OUD as soon as they graduate. And we’ll also be training faculty, so that we can reach future generations of students beyond the life of the grant.”

The Curriculum Is Already in Place

If this proposal raises concerns about the time and effort required to develop curriculum, fear not. AAAP and the American Society of Addiction Medicine have already developed the curriculum, and it is available online. PAEA Chief Policy and Research Officer Dave Keahey, MSPH, PA-C, who is principal investigator on the grant and whose Government Relations team was instrumental in securing it for PAEA, has completed the online training and found the content to be robust. “The curriculum content is excellent,” said Keahey, “And participating in this grant will allow us to provide a PA perspective as the curriculum materials are further refined.”

Expanding the Future PAEA/SAMHSA Relationship

PAEA’s participation in the grant grew out of an October 2017 meeting between PAEA leaders and Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Abuse Elinore McCance-Katz, MD, PhD. The primary purpose of that meeting was to strengthen PAEA’s relationship with SAMHSA staff, to offer the assistance of PA programs in battling the national opioid epidemic, and to discuss ways to improve access to state and federal community mental health clinical training sites for PA students. In the coming months and years, as the grant work proceeds, PAEA will continue to work with SAMHSA on the ongoing pressing issue of clinical sites.