The payer's role in addressing the opioid epidemic: It's more than money

Todd Molfenter, Dennis McCarty, Nora Jacobson, Jee Seon Kim, Sanford Starr, Mark Zehner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Background and objective: County, State, and Federal agencies are addressing the public health opioid crisis. Ohio's 51 county-based Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services (ADAMHS) Boards finance and regulate opioid treatment services within their jurisdictions. This three-year comparative trial collaborated with ADAMHS Boards (n = 14) to test the Advancing Recovery Framework, a suite of organizational and system change strategies designed to promote use of buprenorphine for opioid agonist therapy. Methods: A multi-level intervention directed payers and treatment agencies to leverage their roles in increasing the use of buprenorphine. Half of the boards partnered with local substance use disorder treatment providers using the partnership strategies recommended by the Advancing Recovery (AR) framework. The comparison boards did not use the partnership strategies. Results and conclusion: A logistic regression analysis detected increases in the number of patients receiving buprenorphine in both conditions. Buprenorphine use, as a percentage of patients with an opioid use disorder diagnosis, was significantly greater among the boards using the Advancing Recovery strategies during the three-year experimental period (odds ratio (OR) 1.63, 95% CI, 1.50 to 1.76, p <.001) and a one-year maintenance period (OR 2.13, 95% CI, 1.85 to 2.46, p <.001). Boards in both groups provided similar levels of financial support to implement and maintain buprenorphine prescribing. Strategy differences between the study conditions existed in use of a committee that facilitated payer-provider partnering and the ADAMHS boards setting expectations for using buprenorphine. Payer-provider partnerships achieved greater improvements and maximized the effectiveness of funding in increasing access to buprenorphine.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)72-78
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Substance Abuse Treatment
StatePublished - Jun 2019


  • Buprenorphine
  • Implementation science
  • Opioid maintenance therapy
  • Opioid use disorder
  • Payer strategies

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Phychiatric Mental Health
  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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