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Tuesday, May 28, 2024
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Treatment MATTERS: UB professor’s program links opioid patients to care

The MATTERS program was founded in 2015 to change the way opioid use is treated

A vending machine established by the MATTERS network provides free Narcan and test strips outside of the Kenmore Fire Department.
A vending machine established by the MATTERS network provides free Narcan and test strips outside of the Kenmore Fire Department.

Despite efforts to curb the opioid epidemic, in 2023 over 100,000 people died in the United States from drug overdoses. Health professionals are searching for alternatives to provide treatment and services for those dealing with opioid use disorder (OUD). One local physician and UB professor of emergency medicine, Dr. Joshua Lynch, decided to take action in 2015 when he created the Medication for Addiction Treatment and Electronic Referrals (MATTERS) network of healthcare resources. 

The MATTERS network includes more than 210 referral sites, 250 treatment providers and 1,000 pharmacies across New York State.

Lynch, who specializes in addiction medicine, founded MATTERS with the mission of creating guidelines for opioid prescriptions and harm reduction, including encouraging doctors not to prescribe opioids unless absolutely necessary.

“Part of the reason why the opiate epidemic is so bad is because the drug companies that made the opioids basically lied to doctors saying that these medications were not addictive when they knew that they were,” Lynch said. “It’s part of the reason why people got addicted”

MATTERS lets doctors fill out a three-minute form that will link individuals to outpatient addiction care facilities and medication. 

“A successful piece of outpatient treatment is using medication to treat opiate use disorder, medications such as suboxone or methadone,” Lynch said. “They are the backbone of treatment for opiate use disorder.”

Although medicines like suboxone and methadone must be taken for months, Lynch explains that these medications help individuals remain integrated into society, allowing patients to hold a job or go to college. Previously, doctors were required to have eight hours of extra training to prescribe suboxone. As of January 2023, after years of lobbying in Washington by the American College of Emergency Physicians and other advocates, the additional training, known as the X Waiver, is no longer required.

MATTERS connects patients to 14 days of free medication if they are uninsured or can’t afford it. MATTERS also focuses on harm reduction, which involves free 24/7 vending machines that provide fentanyl test kits, xylazine test strips and naloxone. MATTERS has distributed 10 million test strips since starting harm reduction in 2022.

MATTERS vending machine

Narcan and test strips for fentanyl and xylazine are lined up in the MATTERS vending machine. The potentially lifesaving supplies are available for free through 12 of the vending machines across New York State. 


“There are definitely students at UB that are struggling with drug use — maybe even people you know,” Lynch said. “The take-home is there is help available in Buffalo.” 

MATTERS is available through an app, a website and a 24/7 hotline at 1 (800) 622-4357 for scheduling telehealth appointments with a doctor.

Sarah Owusu is a news editor and can be reached at sarah.owusu@ubspectrum.com


SARAH OWUSU
sarah-owusu.jpg

Sarah Owusu is an assistant news editor at The Spectrum. In her free time she enjoys reading, baking, music and talking politics (yes, shockingly). She'll also be her own hairdresser when she needs a change. 

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