Addiction Psychiatrist and Associate Professor Christopher Welsh has worked with Baltimore City and Maryland State around opioid treatment issues since the late 1990s. Doctor Welsh provides care at several different facilities in Baltimore, as well as a program in Hagerstown called the Wells House, where he sees patients via telemedicine.
The prescribing physician at the Wells House retired in 2015, leaving the remotely-located clinic facing a potential crisis. Buprenorphine, used for opioid addiction treatment since 2003, requires a specific provider certification, and a credentialed practitioner is not always easy to find. Faced with this dilemma at Wells House, patients like Tyrone Jackson and Nicole Moses were feeling understandably apprehensive and anxious.
Enter Doctor Welsh and his colleagues, who are trying to help improve access in counties across the state through telemedicine. According to Doctor Welsh, addiction treatment has been a “heavily controlled” area of medicine since the Harrison Narcotics Tax Act was passed in 1915. Indeed, methadone requires a special clinic for disbursal, and there are caps on the number of patients a single provider can issue buprenorphine prescriptions.
Doctor Welsh and his colleagues are compiling numbers for the state about telemedicine’s effectiveness, as well as providing mentoring services to non-addiction specialist prescribers. He believes improvements are on the horizon, but encourages those seeking treatment to have perseverance.
Footage courtesy of: University of Maryland Medical Center