116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
DES MOINES — Iowans struggling with opioid use disorder have a new tool to find treatment, Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller announced Monday.
The state of Iowa launched opioidhelp.iowa.gov, a dashboard that allows Iowans to find locations for treatment that have contracted with the state.
The locations listed offer “last resort” treatment, which means people whose care is not covered by insurance or Medicaid can get reduced-price or free treatment.
“If the person who is ill and treatable with this doesn’t have coverage, then the programming covers the cost of treatment,” Miller said.
The website includes a map of Iowa broken into 19 areas with at least one treatment provider available in each area. Each of the providers offers both abstinence and medication-assisted treatment.
Medication-assisted treatment involves the use of medications like methadone that reduce cravings and withdrawal symptoms without providing the high of short-acting opioids.
“People can use this for extended periods of time and live ordinary lives,” Miller said.
Medication-assisted treatment is not being taken advantage of to the degree that it could be in Iowa, Miller said, in part because of the stigma surrounding drug addiction. He said the website was designed to frame addiction as a treatable disease rather than a fact of life or a series of bad decisions.
“One of the things we’re trying to do is remove the stigma so people feel more comfortable doing this and the public is more supportive of it,” he said.
Miller has joined multiple lawsuits alleging drug manufacturers deceptively marketed opioids and contributed to the opioid addiction crisis. Several companies have settled in those cases, and Miller said he’s expecting Iowa will receive $225 million from those settlements over several years.
“We now have an opportunity to make a difference and do some things that are right,” he said. “And this is one of the first steps, what I think is an extraordinary website.”
Miller said he wants to see Iowa use the money it receives from the opioid settlement on both prevention and treatment of opioid misuse. He also said he wants to ensure those funds are distributed evenly across the state and that rural areas aren’t left out.
Some $3.8 million of that settlement money has gone to University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, which last year launched a program that trains health care providers to use medication-assisted treatment.
In a video accompanying the website, UIHC addiction physicians discuss the benefits of the opioid use disorder treatment.
“I think there’s several reasons why we have this misconception that it’s not treatable,” clinical psychiatry professor Alison Lynch says in the video. “One is because of stigma, and because if we say that people develop an addiction because they’re a bad person, if they made bad choices, then we’re not thinking about it as a treatable condition.”