Breaking News
More () »

Research: Screening lack for infectious diseases among Medicaid users with opioid use disorder

According to the study conducted in part with the University of Southern Maine, about 25% of patients are being tested for HIV, Hepatitis B, and Hepatitis C.

MAINE, USA — Only about 25% of Medicaid enrollees seeking treatment for opioid use disorder are getting screened for infectious diseases associated with injecting drugs, a new study finds.

According to the study, conducted in part with the University of Southern Maine, the majority of Medicaid enrollees starting treatment are not being screened for diseases like HIV, Hepatitis B, and Hepatitis C.  

"We are focused on looking at metrics of quality of care of people with opioid use disorder," Dr. Katherine Ahrens said. 

Ahrens is an assistant professor at USM with the Muskie School of Public Service and Public Health Program. The research will be featured in an issue of Clinical Infectious Diseases in a paper authored by Ahrens and her colleagues and was helmed by leaders with the University of Pittsburg.

The study analyzed data for more than thousands of Medicaid enrollees in 11 states between 2016 and 2019. 

"Testing for these three infections, HIV, hepatitis C, and hepatitis B did increase over the study period from 2016 to 2019. But it still remained less than 25 percent for each of those conditions," Ahrens said.

Those interested can read more about the study's findings here. Both Ahrens and public health leaders emphasize the importance of testing to prevent the spread of disease.

"Testing is really the first step in the cascade of care for people with these conditions. So you definitely want to test, to know if they have these infections or not, because if they have them they can be treated, with medication and in some situations like for hepatitis C, cured of the infection," Ahrens said. 

In Portland, leaders with Portland Public Health work on the ground every day in an effort to prevent serious illness while community members navigate substance use disorder.

"We have our syringe service program., which is an anonymous free service for people who use drugs to obtain clean syringes and clean supplies," Kerri Barton, program coordinator for harm reduction services with Portland Public Health, said. 

Barton and the team with Portland Public Health also offer rapid testing for HIV and Hepatitis C. 

More NEWS CENTER Maine stories

Before You Leave, Check This Out