Addressing Substance Use Disorders with Low-Barrier, Equitable Solutions
Posted on 03/29/2022

Substance use disorder can affect anyone, from any background. It touches every community. When using traditional treatment facilities like withdrawal management (commonly known as detox), outpatient, and residential or inpatient (commonly known as rehab) it is always good to couple it with continued medications for opioid use disorder, due to relapse risk upon release. High-potency opioids, such as fentanyl, caused a significant increase in overdose deaths in Benton & Franklin Counties – from 38 deaths in 2016 to 64 in 2020.

Changing how we talk and think

Many programs are examining ways to better ensure access to services by eliminating requirements that can become barriers for those seeking help with substance use treatment. Low-barrier services are meant to make it as easy as possible to seek help. If we only support highly motivated individuals, we will miss many folks who do want to change their lives but may not be interested in, or ready to seek the traditional package of detox followed by outpatient or residential treatment.

Low-barrier services are about meeting people where they are. People who have sought help for opioid use disorder often report that their level of engagement with treatment services depends a lot on how they were treated when first connecting with a program. Sometimes providers can turn potential clients off because their beliefs do not align with the clients’. The pillars of empathy, compassion and open-mindedness need to be at the forefront of a healthy provider-to-client relationship.

To find low barrier access to medications to treat opioid use disorder please see the Washington Recovery Helpline’s MOUD Locator for programs in your area that fit your needs. 

In our community, we are working to build community resilience and raise awareness about adverse childhood experiences to reduce risk factors that contribute to substance abuse. Our health care community is learning to identify those at risk for Opioid Use Disorder and to follow best practices for opioid prescribing. Representatives from law enforcement, substance use disorder treatment, health care, behavioral health, and concerned community members are working together to increase access to drug treatment and eliminate the stigma associated with addiction.

Opioid use is a significant public health concern, but it is a complex problem that cannot be solved by a single solution or a single agency. Benton-Franklin Health District works collaboratively with several organizations in the community to use both evidence-based approaches and innovative strategies to address this problem. Using available data, the Health District continuously   evaluates the effectiveness of these strategies, including harm reduction programs, to ensure that the benefits outweigh the risks. As in any disease outbreak, public health cannot sit on the sidelines but must respond to protect the health of the community.

What you can do to help

If you have a loved one who struggles with opioid use disorder, it is important to meet them where they are.