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Halting a Crisis: Addressing the Opioid Epidemic During the COVID-19 Pandemic

While the COVID-19 pandemic dominates the headlines, other public health crises quietly persist.

As the epidemic of opioid overuse disorder continues, so does training to ease the suffering, through remote learning programs offered through Project ECHO at Northeast Ohio Medical University.

And providing help via the Spring 2020 issue of NEOMED’s Ignite magazine, NEOMED alumna Christina M. Delos Reyes, M.D. (’96), who is board certified in addiction psychiatry, answers common questions about Medication- Assisted Treatment (MAT).

What’s MAT?

MAT refers to the use of any medication that supports recovery from addiction. Let’s say a family is looking for an addiction facility for one of its loved ones. The facility says it offers medical detox. Is that the same as MAT?

“Medical detoxification, also known as medically supervised withdrawal, is NOT the same as MAT. Medically supervised withdrawal typically lasts three to five days and utilizes a variety of medications to treat the acute symptoms of withdrawal from opioids, alcohol or benzodiazepines,” says Dr. Delos Ryes, who is an associate professor in the Department of Psychiatry at University Hospitals in Cleveland.

She adds that medically supervised withdrawal doesn’t treat the disease of addiction, so after this step, an individual will need to be referred to ongoing treatment, which typically would involve MAT.

How is MAT determined to be suitable for a patient?

How much does it cost?

These and additional questions are answered by Dr. Delos Reyes in the Ignite article.

Dr. Reyes also recommends a publication called Medication-Assisted Treatment for Opioid Addiction: Facts for Families and Friends*, created by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) Center for Substance Abuse Treatment. More information is available at

Project ECHO MAT Training through NEOMED

NEOMED’s Department of Psychiatry has made a commitment to reducing substance use disorders, including Opiate Use Disorder (OUD) through programming for students, doctors and all medical professionals. It offers two Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) Opiate ECHO Programs, both open to health care providers.

  • A two-month offering called the Ohio Opiate Mentorship TeleECHO is designed to support the transition of the new MAT professional through a cycle of foundational prescriber-mentor topics, while the Ohio Opiate Continuing Education TeleECHO is a set of ever-changing continuing education topics.
  • Project ECHO® (Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes) is a model of continuing medical education that increases workforce capacity by providing networks of expert teams who share best practices for specialty care with community providers via videoconferencing at weekly meetings. Physicians, nurses and other clinicians learn to provide excellent specialty care to patients with complex conditions.


Project ECHO began at the ECHO Institute at the University of New Mexico and is now used globally to create learning communities. As a Project ECHO Superhub, NEOMED now trains new teams to establish learning communities and videoconferencing support to them.

Read “MAT and the Fight Against Opioids” and more about Project ECHO in the Spring 2020 issue of Ignite.

This article is the 19th in NEOMED’s Halting a Crisis series about the epidemic of opioid addiction and how NEOMED is training future physicians and pharmacists to help.