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Advancing Treatment for Opioid Use Disorders
Medication Assisted Treatment

Article Mary Taylor Fullerton, IMAT Supervisor

Every day in the United States, 174 people die from a drug-related overdose, according to Centers for Disease Control & Prevention - 116 of those deaths are the result of opioids. Opioids were involved in 42,249, or 67 percent, of 2016 drug overdose deaths. The data shows that people are dying from more potent and dangerous opioids, and are simultaneously using multiple drugs like heroin, fentanyl, cocaine, methamphetamines and benzodiazepines.

For individuals struggling with chronic alcohol and/or opioid use disorders, who are ready to get help, medication assisted treatment (MAT) can help them reclaim their lives. Research shows that medication assisted treatment, which combines medication, therapy and support can successfully treat substance use disorder, and can help some people overcome these disorders and sustain recovery.

Since July 2015, the IMAT team has been treating alcohol disorders and in the last year, began offering MAT for the treatment of opioid use disorders.

Medications Used in MAT

The FDA has approved several different medications to treat those struggling with opioid and alcohol addiction. Medications used in MAT have been proven to ease symptoms of withdrawal, reduce cravings, and block the brain’s ability to experience the substance’s effect. 

A common misconception associated with MAT is that it substitutes one drug for another. In reality, these medications relieve the withdrawal symptoms, reduce cravings and block the brain’s ability to experience the substance’s effect.

MAT programs provide a safe and controlled level of medication to treat opioid use disorder. Research has shown that when provided at the proper dose, medications used in MAT have no adverse effects on a person’s mental capability, physical functioning or employability.


The Integrated Mediation Assisted Treatment Team (IMAT) team consists of a broad multidisciplinary team from Behavioral Health & Recovery Services, and contracted providers, which include case managers, benefits analysts, program analysts, nurses, physicians and medical assistants, in collaboration with San Mateo Medical Center Emergency Services and law enforcement.

IMAT case managers assist with screening and assessment to help determine the appropriateness of MAT, as well as tailor a recovery program to fit individual needs. They also help clients attend MAT appointments and provide linkage to mental health services, primary care, benefit enrollment and other substance use treatment supports.

Case managers are available every day at the San Mateo Medical Center Emergency Department and Psychiatric Emergency Services. The team works in the field with homeless individuals and law enforcement and are available Monday through Friday, in primary care clinics in Fair Oaks, South San Fransisco and Daly City.

Two Year Outcomes

Of the 206 clients engaged in the IMAT program during FY 2015-2017*, we saw a decline in the utilization of inpatient hospital, emergency department and psychiatric emergency services, and an increase in outpatient service utilization, reducing overall healthcare costs.

*during the 6-month period after starting the program compared to the 6-month period before starting the program.