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News Feature

The Island & The Peninsula
Originally published in Castine Patriot, June 27, 2019 and Island Ad-Vantages, June 27, 2019 and The Weekly Packet, June 27, 2019
Healthy Acadia and partners launch education program

Healthy Acadia, in partnership with Maine Quality Counts, a Maine-based organization focused on improving systems of health care, and a network of providers and public health advocates across Washington and Hancock counties, is launching a year-long educational initiative to increase provider skills and confidence in the area of medication-assisted treatment (MAT) for opioid use disorders.

The Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes initiative, or ECHO, will target healthcare providers in primary care settings who seek to learn more about MAT. ECHO is modeled on Project ECHO, an evidence-based educational model developed by researchers at the University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center. The model uses videoconferencing to connect interdisciplinary specialist teams with primary-care clinicians to build knowledge, confidence and skills to treat complex conditions through case-based learning, mentoring, guidance, treatment recommendations, and didactic education. Participants can join ECHO sessions from any location with internet access and a computer with a webcam and microphone.

ECHO will enable clinical teams to present complex, real-life cases involving opioid use disorders (OUD), and receive feedback from experienced faculty from across the state regarding recommendations with how to proceed. The whole group learns together, and forms lasting networks and mentoring relationships. Funding support from a Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration grant allows ECHO to be offered at no cost to clinicians, according to a news release from Healthy Acadia.

“In order to address the opioid crisis in our region, we need more primary care providers to add MAT care to their menu of services,” says Michael Murnik, a vice president senior physician executive at Northern Light Blue Hill Hospital who has been actively involved in planning the initiative. “We want to connect providers with support, education, and a team of experienced colleagues to help make it easier for them to provide MAT.”

The program will include two educational components. The first, Readiness Academy, will offer monthly sessions in June, July, and August, and will focus on operational and administrative considerations, and organizational culture. The second ECHO session will take place monthly from October 2019 through May 2020 and will focus on all the specifics of providing MAT, including the basics of addiction, urine drug screening, pain management, behavioral health, and other topics.

To learn more about ECHO in Hancock and Washington counties, contact Penny Guisinger at Healthy Acadia, 255-3741 or