The Illinois Department of Human Services Division of Substance Use Prevention and Recovery in collaboration with the Illinois Helpline, and Family Guidance Centers, Inc., has launched a new statewide program, MAR NOW, for Illinois residents who have an opioid use disorder (OUD). Medication-assisted recovery (MAR) involves the use of FDA-approved medications for the treatment of OUD. Now an individual can speak directly with a doctor over the phone, immediately receive a prescription or same-day in-person appointment, and get transportation assistance to the pharmacy or clinic, all at the same time.
When an individual in Illinois calls the Helpline seeking treatment for an opioid use disorder, they can now be directed to immediate assistance 24 hours a day,7 days a week. A care coordinator helps them determine their best treatment options and can connect them to a provider for an immediate telephone appointment and prescription for medication. Care coordinators can also facilitate a same- or next-day in-person appointment. All patients are connected to opioid use disorder treatment services with a community-based organization that best meets their needs.
Although MAR is the standard of care for an opioid addiction, only 20-30% of people diagnosed with opioid use disorder nationwide receive this treatment.
Traditionally, access to methadone, buprenorphine, or naltrexone, the medications used to treat opioid use disorders, were only available after an in-person appointment with a provider who prescribed these medications. Appointments, if they were available and affordable, often required a wait of several days to weeks. This was a huge barrier for someone ready to immediately access treatment. Strict federal regulations around the storage and prescription of these medications further restricted access, making it challenging for providers to offer treatment.
MAR NOW changes all of this. The program takes advantage of COVID-prompted changes to federal regulations that allow patients to begin treatment at home after an initial telephone appointment with a provider. This vastly expands access to opioid use disorder treatment by providing immediate, easy access to MAR. The program serves all patients, regardless of insurance status or ability to pay. If someone can’t afford their prescription, community-based providers will ensure that individuals have access at no cost. Patients will also receive transportation via rideshare or bus passes to a pharmacy and to their follow-up appointments as needed. MAR NOW care coordinators will provide ongoing care coordination and follow-up with patients who call the Illinois Helpline to ensure that patients can access their medications at the pharmacy and make it to their appointments.
“The primary goal of this program is to save lives. Immediate access to medication for opioid use disorder is not only an effective treatment, it is an overdose prevention intervention. Patients receiving MAR have a substantially lowered risk of overdose. The sooner we can get someone access to MAR when they are ready for it, the better chance we have of preventing overdose.”Nicole Gastala, M.D., IDHS/SUPR’s Medical Director
Clinicians – check out the new MAR Now Fact Sheet below.