August 6, 2021

ICRE Alumna Leads Largest-Ever Analysis of Opioid Use Disorder Among Medicaid Recipients

Julie Donohue, PhD, an alumna of the Clinical and Translational Science Scholars Program (KL2), recently first-authored an article in the Journal of the American Medical Association that provided key insights for improving access to quality care for opioid use disorder, one of the leading causes of death in the U.S. The analysis was possible because of a unique network that partnered academic institutes with state Medicaid programs to overcome barriers to data sharing between states.

Dr. Donohue and her research team explored whether the treatment of opioid use disorder (OUD) among Medicaid enrollees changed from 2014 to 2018. Their findings indicated that the prevalence of medication treatment for OUD increased from 47.8% in 2014 to 57.1% in 2018. The group also found substantial variation across and within states in any use and continuity (for 180 days) of medications for OUD by age, race/ethnicity, eligibility group, behavioral health comorbidity, and rural vs urban residence.

This important work helps to elucidate the existence of trends in OUD treatment and reveals great variability across states in the quality measures of behavioral health counseling, urine testing and controlled substance prescribing. The Medicaid Outcomes Distributed Research Network (MODRN) team shared information with each state’s Medicaid managers with the goal of improving treatment and closing treatment gaps.

Dr. Julie Donohue is a Professor and Chair in the Department of Health Policy and Management, Graduate School of Public Health, University of Pittsburgh. She is also the Director of the Medicaid Research Center and the Co-Director of the Center for Pharmaceutical Policy and Prescribing, both at Pitt. Read more.

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