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A blog about the technical and software sides of mental health and addictions

Opiates Addiction: Epidemic Treatment

Terry McLeod Updated: Jan 25th 2011

Addiction to opiates is in epidemic proportions in many areas of the country. In Suffolk County, NY, it's become so high-profile that the county launched an opiate epidemic advisory council seeking community help. Folks from all over the county have offered energy to help the community recover from this societal disease.

injection needleThere are a number of methods of treatment, including 12 step groups, psychotherapy, hospitalization, and methadone, buprenorphine or suboxone for people requiring ongoing medication to overcome opiate abuse. I have worked with many methadone clinics over the years, and was happy to see that a number of clinics are working to improve their businesses...with the projected increases in people who need treatment, this improvement is vital.

According to NIATX, a group that helps mental health and addiction treatment organizations with their businesses, efforts have been successful in helping methadone clinics increase their capabilities to serve more people with opiate addiction problems. I was also glad to see that the solutions to making more widespread treatment available are served and improved by the Electronic Health Record (EHR).


Who knows who's having trouble with opiates and is having difficulty recovering better than people in methadone treatment? Rewards were offered to consumers when they brought new folks needing help through the door. The program was effective enough to increase admissions at one agency by 53%. That sort of growth could create a minor problem: How do we track who brought whom through the door, and the rewards owed or delivered? A simple referral module in the EHR does the trick. After the fact, built in report writers can help evaluate long-term retention in treatment for people involved in this referral program…and save a lot of man-hours that might have been spent counting beans. Manual tracking of programs like this is seldom analyzed to determine effectiveness just because people are busy with their regular jobs and view analysis as busywork. Using computers to do that job makes sense.

Therapy Group

In a number of states, Medicaid has switched to charging for each service delivered as opposed to a traditional method of a single fee that includes all counseling, medication or other services when a consumer walks through the door. Clinics are finding they need to offer different and separate types of treatment services, including group treatment. Groups require a two part note documenting both group focus and consumer focus, as well as scheduling to create a roster…a roster in the EHR saves time, increases accuracy of attendance and billing accounting. The note assures the team will know of emergent issues for consumers and assures they get more individual help if needed...not to mention fulfilling billing requirements. Another benefit of the EHR in this instance is the focus of the group; analyzing group notes can point out needs for therapy groups that focus on different topics.

Immediate Service

The EHR can help manage inquiries by people needing help, including a quick scheduling for the consumer to talk with a counselor. The disease of addiction can make people rather impatient, so the quicker the service, the better. Central scheduling enables scheduling of appointments in the next empty time slot that works for both the consumer and a counselor. Without that up-to-the minute management capability, connecting the two can be difficult.

With opiate addiction in epidemic proportions, it only makes sense to help professionals deliver the highest quality care to the most people. Optimizing use of the EHR is a vital tool in serving more people in your neighborhood who might have a problem with medications like oxycontin or Vicodin, or street drugs like heroin.


Terry McLeod

Electronic Health Records (EHRs) are a required part of our society, and improving business workflows with the EHR is imperative for the survival of your local mental health and addictions treatment clinics. Terry McLeod provides the bridge between the mental health and addictions professional and the technical world, as well as the glue to keep it working. Contact McLeod at and get more information from his website and blog,

Reader Comments
Discuss this issue below or in our forums.

Methadone Detox - Dawn Jackson - Feb 11th 2011

Great article. Interesting thoughts noted in the "referral" section. It sounds like you are thinking the recovering addicts might see the referral incentive as a new incentive to bring in their friends and then split the spoils? So to speak.

Have you written any articles comparing methadone detox to suboxone detox?

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