Low-Threshold Buprenorphine via Community Partnerships and Telemedicine-Case Reports of Expanding Access to Addiction Treatment during COVID-19

Ximena A. Levander, Haven Wheelock, Justine Pope, Abby Lee, Kerith Hartmann, Sarah Abuelkhair, Jessica L. Gregg, Bradley M. Buchheit

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Background:To reduce coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) spread, federal agencies eased telemedicine restrictions including audio-only appointments. These changes permitted clinicians to prescribe buprenorphine to patients with opioid use disorder (OUD) without in-person or audio/video assessment. Our clinic utilized existing community collaborations to implement protocols and extend outreach. We describe 3 patients with OUD who engaged with treatment through outreach with trusted community partners and low-threshold telemedicine.Case Presentations:Patient 1-a 40-year-old man with severe OUD who injected heroin and was living outside. A weekend harm reduction organization volunteer the patient previously knew used her mobile phone to facilitate an audio-only intake appointment during clinic hours. He completed outpatient buprenorphine initiation. Patient 2-a 48-year-old man with severe opioid and methamphetamine use disorders who injected both and was living in his recreational vehicle. He engaged regularly with syringe services program (SSP), but utilized no other healthcare services. Initially, an SSP worker connected him to our clinic for audio-only appointment using their landline to initiate buprenorphine; a harm reduction volunteer coordinated follow-up. Patient 3-a 66-year-old man with moderate OUD used non-prescribed pill opioids without prior buprenorphine experience. He lived over 5 hours away in a rural town. He underwent virtual appointment and completed home buprenorphine initiation.Conclusion:These 3 cases illustrate examples of how policy changes allowing for telemedicine buprenorphine prescribing can expand availability of addiction services for patients with OUD who were previously disengaged for reasons including geography, lack of housing, transportation difficulties, and mistrust of traditional healthcare systems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)E56-E58
JournalJournal of addiction medicine
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2022


  • COVID-19
  • buprenorphine
  • community outreach
  • homelessness
  • rural
  • telemedicine

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Pharmacology (medical)


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