This week, our In Focus section highlights a Health Affairs Forefront post, “To Treat Residents With OUD, Nursing Facilities Must Improve Practices and Reduce Stigma,” published June 8, 2023. Health Management Associates (HMA) consultants Dina Besirevic, Kamala Greene Genece, Debbi Witham, David F. Polakoff, and Barry J. Jacobs wrote the article.
The HMA colleagues note that two recent healthcare industry trends are converging to change the admission criteria and clinical practices that some skilled nursing facilities (SNFs) use. Driving one movement is the opioid epidemic in which increased prevalence of fentanyl and its medical complications are spurring the need for posthospital discharge SNF admissions. The other stems from the low occupancy rates in many SNFs since the pandemic. As a result, more SNFs are considering filling beds by admitting individuals with opioid use disorder (OUD) for the first time.
In many respects, this a positive development. The need for skilled nursing care, such as medication-assisted treatment (MAT), for individuals with OUD has never been greater. A March 23, 2023, US Drug Enforcement Administration public safety alert reported that recently analyzed fentanyl samples in 48 of the 50 states had been adulterated with xylazine, or “tranq,” a veterinary sedative added to prolong an opioid high. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), extensive xylazine use commonly causes severe skin wounds requiring weeks of intravenous antibiotics and skilled wound care to prevent amputations. Providing well-managed post-acute care for these patients could lead to improved outcomes.
But admitting and treating individuals with OUD now poses multiple challenges for SNF staffs and administrators. Many of these healthcare workers lack training in OUD pharmacological and support care. Some have stigmatizing attitudes toward individuals with OUD. To address these concerns, SNFs across the country have developed different practice models. Examples include:
- Laguna Honda in San Francisco trains its staff to understand OUD, recognize the signs of resident opioid use, and work closely with nearby OUD providers to provide all OUD treatment.
- At Highbridge Woodycrest Center in the Bronx, NY, the storage and administration of MAT is managed by the SNF staff through a collaborative relationship with a community-based provider, Bronx Care Health System, which prescribes the medications and then delivers them to the facility.
- At other SNFs, SNF physicians and nurse practitioners prescribe buprenorphine with consultation as needed from community-based OUD providers.
HMA’s experts in OUD and SNFs are working collaboratively to assist SNFs interested in exploring the clinical, financial, and operational opportunities and challenges with this emerging line of business. For questions or inquiries, please contact Barry J. Jacobs.