A comparison of office-based buprenorphine treatment outcomes in Bronx community clinics before versus during the COVID-19 pandemic

Chinazo O. Cunningham, Laila Khalid, Yuting Deng, Kristine Torres-Lockhart, Mariya Masyukova, Shenell Thomas, Chenshu Zhang, Tiffany Lu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations

Abstract

Introduction: In 2020, the US and New York City experienced unprecedented deaths due to the COVID-19 pandemic and drug overdoses. Policy changes reduced burdensome regulations for medication treatment for opioid use disorder (OUD). Despite these policy changes, few studies examined buprenorphine treatment outcomes during the pandemic. We compared treatment outcomes among Bronx patients referred to office-based buprenorphine treatment before versus during the pandemic. Methods: In a retrospective cohort study, we compared patients referred to buprenorphine treatment in a Bronx community clinic before (March–August 2019) versus during (March–August 2020) the pandemic. We describe changes to buprenorphine treatment during the pandemic, including telehealth and prioritizing harm reduction. Using data from medical records and program logs, main outcomes included steps of the OUD treatment cascade of care—initial visit scheduled and completed, treatment initiated, and retained in treatment at 90 days. Using chi square and t-tests, we examined differences in patient characteristics and OUD treatment cascade steps before versus during the pandemic. Results: Before and during the pandemic, 72 and 35 patients were referred to buprenorphine treatment, respectively. Patients' mean age was 46 years, most were male (67.3%) or Hispanic (52.3%), and few had private insurance (19.6%). Patients referred during (vs. before) the pandemic were more likely to have private insurance (31.4% vs. 13.9%, p < 0.05) and be referred from acute care settings (37.1% vs. 19.4%, p < 0.05). No significant differences in OUD cascade of care outcomes existed between those referred during versus before the pandemic. However, among patients who initiated buprenorphine treatment, those referred during (vs. before) the pandemic were more likely to be retained in treatment at 90 days (68.0% vs. 42.9%, p < 0.05). Conclusions: Despite the COVID-19 pandemic's unprecedented devastation to the Bronx, along with worsening drug overdose deaths, OUD cascade of care outcomes were similar among patients referred to buprenorphine treatment before versus during the pandemic. Among patients who initiated buprenorphine treatment, treatment retention was better during (versus before) the pandemic. During a public health emergency, incorporating telehealth and prioritizing harm reduction are key strategies to maintain optimal OUD treatment outcomes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number108641
JournalJournal of Substance Abuse Treatment
Volume135
DOIs
StatePublished - Apr 2022

Keywords

  • Buprenorphine
  • COVID-19 pandemic
  • Cascade of care
  • Opioid use disorder

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Phychiatric Mental Health
  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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