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Barriers to Medications for Opioid Use Disorder Among Veterans Involved in the Legal System: a Qualitative Study.

Finlay AK, Morse E, Stimmel M, Taylor E, Timko C, Harris AHS, Smelson D, Yu M, Blue-Howells J, Binswanger IA. Barriers to Medications for Opioid Use Disorder Among Veterans Involved in the Legal System: a Qualitative Study. Journal of general internal medicine. 2020 Sep 1; 35(9):2529-2536.

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Abstract:

BACKGROUND: Veterans involved in the legal system are at high risk for overdose but have lower receipt of medications for opioid use disorder than other veterans. OBJECTIVE: The study aimed to understand barriers to medication access from the perspective of legally involved veterans with opioid use disorder and people who work with these veterans in the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) and the legal system. DESIGN: This national qualitative study interviewed veterans and stakeholders from 14 geographically diverse VHA facilities to explore perceptions of barriers to medications for opioid use disorder. PARTICIPANTS: Participants included veterans with a history of opioid use disorder and legal involvement (n = 18), VHA Veterans Justice Programs Specialists (n = 15), VHA and community substance use disorder treatment providers (n = 5), and criminal justice staff (n = 12). APPROACH: We conducted interviews based on the Consolidated Framework for Implementation Research. Interview transcripts were analyzed using a team-based approach. KEY RESULTS: Four key barriers, noted by group, were identified: (1) a preference for counseling along with or instead of medications (veterans, Specialists, treatment providers, criminal justice staff); (2) concerns about veterans using medications without a prescription, selling them, or providing them to others (veterans, Specialists, treatment providers, criminal justice staff); (3) concerns about perceived stigma towards medication use (veterans, Specialists, treatment providers, criminal justice staff); and (4) concerns about medication discontinuation after recurrent opioid use (veterans, criminal justice staff). A fifth theme, education, was noted by all stakeholders except providers as important to facilitating use of medications for opioid use disorder. All five themes mapped to the framework construct of knowledge and beliefs about the intervention. CONCLUSIONS: Based on identified barriers, interventions focused on enhancing medication knowledge, reducing stigma towards use of medications, and increasing knowledge that opioid use may recur during treatment may help increase access to medication for veterans with legal involvement.





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