Pilot program helps get South Coast teens into opioid recovery programs

WAREHAM, Mass. — In 2016, one-third of all deaths of people between the ages of 15 and 24 years old was due to opioid abuse - 150 young people died of overdoses in all.

For years, Wareham pediatrician Dr. Jason Reynolds has been troubled by a lack of resources to help those teen addicts.

“It's a very helpless feeling. It can be very frustrating,” said Dr. Reynolds.

But he's now part of a pilot program that's allowing those patients to get their lives back on track.  Previously, kids who came to his office with drug and alcohol addictions would have to be referred to specialized facilities for treatment. But there are few clinics in the South Coast area, and even fewer for young people.

A new study by researchers at Boston Medical Center found only about 25 percent of young adults were prescribed medications like suboxone that can be critical to recovery.

“It's hard for them to find the resources. Also hard for them to feel comfortable with the resources. For many of them, the idea of going to a clinic is really scary,” said Dr. Reynolds.

Patients Dr. Reynolds has known since they were in elementary school, often left his office never getting treatment.

“Before we had this program, it was really frustrating to see patients you knew for so long struggle,” said Dr. Reynolds.

The Pediatric Physicians Organization at Children's Hospital contacted Wareham Pediatrics about starting the pilot program. The Wareham practice brought in an "in-house drug counselor", and Reynolds and his partner completed training to prescribe suboxone.

So far, feedback is positive.

“We looked at this as, if there was anything that we could do to prevent a death in one of our patients, we had to do it.”

This program began with a $450,000 grant from the Blue Cross Blue Shield Foundation. Another facility in Children's network, Bridgewater Pediatrics, will take on the program next. It could eventually become a model for programs nationwide.

MORE: Mass. Youth & Young Adult Substance Use Services Directory