Beacon expands into Florida as a Project ECHO hub
Beacon Health Options has an important new partnership in Florida: Beacon is serving as a Project ECHO hub to train practitioners on medication-assisted treatment (MAT) for treating opioid use disorder (OUD). With a live hub in New York and one successfully completed in Connecticut, Beacon is the first managed behavioral health organization to become an official partner of Project ECHO.
The University of New Mexico (UNM) launched Project ECHO in 2003 to bring hepatitis C care to community clinics around the state. Considered to be one of the most innovative healthcare practice models in the country, Project ECHO is a tele-mentoring model that links specialists with community-based clinicians in rural and underserved areas through virtual clinics. Congress recognized Project ECHO as a national model for delivering care in underserved communities with the passage of the Expanding Capacity for Health Outcomes (ECHO) Act.
As a destination state for OUD treatment, Florida is a logical choice for Beacon’s next Project ECHO partnership to train providers on MAT.
ECHO model taps into multiple areas of expertise
The ECHO model works as follows: Interdisciplinary teams of experts connect with primary care or other community clinicians through teleECHO hubs, in which the experts mentor clinicians in a “case presentation” model — a model that relies on clinicians’ actual cases to illustrate best practice through mentoring, guidance, feedback and traditional lectures. As a result, participating clinicians gain the knowledge and skills to manage complex cases and deliver evidence-based care in their own health centers.
Beacon’s Florida hub includes a multidisciplinary team representing counseling, addictionology, case management, social work and general psychiatry. While other payors partnering with UNM to offer Project ECHO rely on outside subject matter experts, Beacon acts as the actual hub — directly providing the clinical expertise and guidance.
Recognizing OUD as a chronic disease, Beacon is particularly excited to leverage ECHO in improving access to MAT, an approach that combines counseling with FDA-approved medications that relieve the symptoms of opioid withdrawal or block opioids’ effects. However, in spite of being considered as the most effective treatment for OUD, many people don’t have access to MAT. Demand exceeds treatment capacity, with only 23 percent of publicly-funded treatment programs offering MAT, while less than half of physicians in private-sector programs prescribe MAT.
Participating clinicians gain the knowledge and skills to manage complex cases and deliver evidence-based care in their own health centers.
Additionally, in response to COVID-19, Beacon has modified its ECHO training curriculum to address concerns specific to delivering OUD care during the pandemic as well as to provide information on telehealth.
Addressing two birds with one stone: Knowledge and access
As a Project ECHO hub, Beacon can address the issues of provider knowledge and treatment access simultaneously. Training providers on MAT improves their capacity in OUD treatment, which in turn, opens up more MAT services.
In other words, improved capability leads to increased capacity.
Beacon’s partnership with Project ECHO improves the way Beacon’s already high-quality provider network manages patients with OUD. In addition to our role as a Project ECHO hub, Beacon helps our network providers stay informed on the latest advancements in evidence-based, best-practice care by equipping them with MAT treatment guidelines, tools and patient resources. To ensure its network’s continued competency, Beacon meets with providers onsite to provide training and technical assistance for any identified quality issues, as well as gather feedback to help Beacon be a better partner.
As we continue to shift the paradigm and treat OUD as a chronic illness, we need to educate ourselves more on related best-practices. At Beacon, we believe that means helping providers to become more competent in MAT; expanding access to MAT; and implementing a chronic disease approach to OUD.
Beacon has collaborated with the Opioid Response Network, funded by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, to enhance the hub’s expertise by including cutting-edge research and emerging best-practice, encouraging a multidisciplinary approach. Currently recruiting for both New York and Florida providers to join the Project ECHO hubs, Beacon is especially interested in adding primary care/integrated care providers to existing hub membership.
For more information, contact ProjectECHO@beaconhealthoptions.com.