Addictions, Drug & Alcohol Institute

ADAI’s “Meds First” Study Highlighted in Seattle Times Editorial

Background image of blurred clinic waiting room with quote over top "This is the mode of care we've been waiting for" - a Community-Based "Meds First" site director in rural Washington State

An editorial by the Seattle Times on August 25, 2022 featured information about the community-based “Meds First” buprenorphine study led by the UW Center for Community-Engaged Drug Education, Epidemiology and Research (CEDEER) at ADAI.

The editorial begins by describing last year’s new law (SB 5476) making drug possession a misdemeanor and requiring police to divert the first two offenses from the criminal justice system to assessment, treatment, or other services instead.     

The Meds First model of care could be an effective way to help people who weren’t seeking treatment at the time of their contact with law enforcement. It aims to provide onsite, low-barrier access to buprenorphine in harm reduction programs and includes the use of care navigators who can help support client engagement and retention in treatment.

The Meds First study included programs in Tacoma, Spokane, Centralia, Walla Walla, Kennewick, and North Seattle and involved about 1,300 people beginning treatment for opioid use disorder.

Participants were given medication for their OUD, typically buprenorphine, and offered in-person counseling and emotional support from care navigators, including phone calls, and text messages.

The conversations largely focused on staying in the program, current drug use and cravings, and other issues like lack of housing and challenges with family.

According to the study report, “Utilization was high, and the service mix and topics of conversation appear highly relevant for people working to improve their overall health.” In a recent paper about the study, one Meds First site director described it as “the model of care we’ve been waiting for.”

Read more about the Meds First program: