Indian Health Council, Inc. (IHC) is a healthcare consortium of nine federally-recognized tribes located in north San Diego County, a 1,500 square mile service area. The majority of American Indian/Alaskan Native (AI/AN) residents speak English as their primary language. IHC’s primary and satellite clinic facilities deliver culturally appropriate health care and related services to 12,598 registered and 6,830 active clients who account for about 31,000 visits yearly. The annual household income of at least 60% of clients is within 200% of the federal poverty level. Within IHC’s client population, youth under age 18 comprise 34% of all patients.
The population of focus for the MAT PDOA program is primarily tribal members and their spouses residing in the north San Diego County catchment area. Induction into the treatment program will target individuals aged 16 and older with a diagnosis of opioid dependence/abuse.
According to the California Department of Public Health, San Diego County experienced 528 opioid-related overdose deaths in 2020, the most recent calendar year of data available and the annual crude mortality rate for 2020 was 15.77 per 100k residents. This represents a 97% increase from 2018. Notably, in 2020, Native American/Alaskan Native opioid-related death rates were the highest among all races/ethnicities, at 30 per 100k residents. From 2019 (Q2) to 2021(Q2)), synthetic opioid overdose death rates soared from 4 to over 16 per 100k residents, along with any opioid Emergency Department visits.
In a scan of IHC’s client data from 2019 to current (4/2022) of patients with at least one clinic visit, 130 unique individuals with a diagnosis of opioid dependence/abuse were recorded by IHC Providers. Of these, 20 received MAT services, with one opioid-related death after prematurely leaving the treatment program. In the past, the tendency was to diagnose the underlying medical condition for which a patient sought treatment and not to add opioid dependence or abuse. However, with four years of MAT experience, IHC providers have improved screenings to minimize this issue. Stigma is a key barrier to accessing treatment and we believe the actual number of clients with opioid use disorder continues to be much higher.
Another barrier to clients accessing services is IHC’s capacity to provide financial coverage for uninsured patients needing MAT services. The MAT-PDOA funding will allow IHC to address service delivery gaps and expand beyond our current level of services by allocating more resources to medication, laboratory expenses, and contracts with outside treatment organizations for induction and rehabilitative services. IHC’s overarching goal and objectives for the proposed MAT project are:
GOAL: Reduce unmet treatment need and opioid overdose-related deaths through the provision of medication-assisted treatment (MAT) and recovery activities for opioid use disorder (OUD)
OBJECTIVE 1: Increase participation in culturally appropriate and evidence-based treatment, including MAT using buprenorphine/naloxone for the treatment of opioid use disorder
OBJECTIVE 2: Provide a robust suite of medication assisted treatment and Recovery Support Services (RSS) based on the HUB service delivery model to effectively identify, engage, and retain individuals in OUD treatment and facilitate long-term recovery