New hotline for expert advice on drug addiction

Wisconsin doctors working in rural areas now have a new hotline they can call for expert advice on treating patients with addictions.

Dr. Randall Brown oversees the team that provides this service, offering real-time support from specialists in addiction medicine, addiction psychiatry, psychology and counseling for alcohol and other drugs.

He directs the overdose prevention program at the Aids Resource Center of Wisconsin, and also heads the Center for Addictive Disorders at UW Hospital.

“The misuse of substances and the complications that flow from that misuse represent the single largest preventable and treatable contributors to morbidity and mortality in this state and nationally,” Brown said. “And research shows that appropriate care for these patients can be effectively delivered in primary-care practice settings.”

But, he says, 70 percent of the state’s rural counties don’t even have one provider that’s certified to provide medication-assisted treatment for opioid-use disorders.

That’s why he says he’s confident “that we can reduce the enormous suffering substance abuse produces in this state.”

According to a release from UW-Madison, this program is the first of its kind in the country.

Physicians can get advice for patients who are addicted to a range of substances: alcohol, opioids, stimulants, marijuana and synthetics.

Though support will largely consist of on-the-spot help for patients in the doctor’s office, the addiction specialists can also give advice for follow-up and long-term options for care.

The University of Wisconsin Addiction Consultation Hotline, from UW-Madison and UW Health, is available on weekdays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The hotline is supported by a grant from the Wisconsin Department of Health Services.

Some $500,000 is set aside for fiscal year 2017-18 fiscal year, and the same amount for fiscal year 2018-19, to create and operate the program.

Operational support is coming from UW Health, and Brown’s team is working alongside the Rural Wisconsin Health Cooperative and the Wisconsin Society of Addiction Medicine to launch the program.

–By Alex Moe