Since 2007 the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has not licensed any new methadone vans citing concerns over drug diversion. These mobile units have been used for decades to provide the FDA approved addiction treatment medicine to individuals in high-need, underserved areas.
As Route Fifty reports this has led to SAMHSA and local agencies across the nation, including some in Baltimore City, to urge the DEA to remove the ban so that they may expand current mobile methadone operations or launch new ones as they continue to battle an opioid epidemic.
In 1990, opioid treatment centers in Baltimore and Boston became the first in the nation to expand their urban drug treatment operations by outfitting vans to serve high-demand neighborhoods.
The drug treatment program in Baltimore, the Institutes for Behavior Resources, operated a DEA-licensed van and a backup van to dispense methadone to hundreds of patients for about 10 years, and then purchased new vans and used them for another 10 years before parking the vehicles and letting their licenses expire.
Two years ago, Behavior Resources leased one of those vans to another nonprofit program, the Behavioral Health Leadership Institute, which is using the vehicle to provide buprenorphine instead of methadone. Although the DEA also has authority over buprenorphine, it has not banned licensed prescribers of the medication from working out of a van.
Equipped with a bathroom and private counseling rooms, the van allows Behavioral Health Leadership to offer low-income residents drug screenings, addiction assessments, counseling and pre-paid prescriptions for buprenorphine.
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