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Beacon signs on as Project ECHO educational hub

September 25, 2017
by Tom Valentino, Senior Editor
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Project ECHO (Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes), a mentoring initiative started in 2003 that links specialists with community-based clinicians in rural or underserved areas through virtual clinics, has its first managed behavioral health partner: Beacon Health Options.

Beacon’s clinical team will train community practitioners on medication-assisted treatment for opioid use disorder through its ECHO hubs. Two hubs, which serve Connecticut and Florida, launched in August, and the managed care organization says it expects to have two more by the end of 2017.

The goal of the program is to help expand the use of medication-assisted treatment in the context of an integrated approach to addiction treatment. Currently, 23% of publicly funded treatment programs offer FDA-approved medications to treat SUDs. Less than half of private sector treatment programs report that their physicians prescribe FDA-approved medication.

 “The training is similar to the training in formalized medicine, where when people graduate medical school and go to a residency program, they learn core competence by presenting cases to faculty and a treatment team, and discussing cases, then learning from the discussions how to treat the condition,” says Steve Bentsen, Beacon’s chief medical officer for the company’s commercial and federal clients. “This is all about thinking through options and the provider learning how to thoughtfully address the condition and build comfort providing treatment.”

The telehealth training program examines deidentified case presentations with a goal of competence building, not consultation. Providers share clinical cases with one of Beacon’s hub teams, a five- or six-person staff that includes a coordinator, addiction psychiatrist, case manager, social workers and partnership representatives. The hub team then helps the provider think through appropriate treatment for the patient and build competency and knowledge of treatment modalities.

Bentsen says the training process can run around six months, depending on the provider, and that trainees are welcome to return to the ECHO hub if they need clarification on how to approach a case.

“It’s not a formal program where you graduate,” Bentsen says. “It’s where the provider feels competent in treating the condition.”