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Access to Care for Methadone Maintenance Patients in the United States

  • Author(s): Hettema, Jennifer E.
  • Sorensen, James L.
  • et al.
Abstract

This policy commentary addresses a significant access to care issue that faces methadone maintenance patients seeking residential treatment in the United States. Methadone maintenance therapy (MMT) has demonstrated strong efficacy in the outpatient treatment of opiate dependence. However, many opiate dependent patients are also in need of more intensive interventions, such as residential care. Many publically-funded residential treatment programs explicitly decline to admit MMT patients, contending that methadone raises both clinical and administrative problems in treatment. Although advocates within the field believe that this issue is a violation of the American’s with Disabilities Act (ADA) in the United States, no lawsuits have been brought forth, and there is no legal precedent or public policy to inform the debate. The present paper provides an overview of this problem and discusses factors that may contribute to the problem, including an abstinence-oriented philosophy and treatment program operational concerns. The paper also draws parallels between methadone and other medical conditions and analyzes the problem in the context of disabilities encompassed in the ADA. Finally, recommendations on strategies for increasing access to residential care for MMT patients are provided.

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