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Denise Hughes
UPMC Health Plan

An Integrated Approach Is Key to Improving the Chance of Long-Term Recovery from Opioid Use Disorder (OUD)

Standard of care for treating OUD should remain medication-assisted treatment, but counseling can provide added value.

Pittsburgh (Sept. 28, 2021) – A new study published this week in the Journal for Addiction Medicine demonstrates the value of adding psychotherapy to medication-assisted treatment (MAT) with buprenorphine to improve both short- and long-term outcomes for individuals with OUD. Although MAT is now the standard of care for treating OUD, this paper provides key research confirming the additional value counseling might provide for recovery when buprenorphine is the treatment medication.

The findings of the paper, Association of Counseling and Psychotherapy on Retention in Medication for Addiction Treatment Within a Large Medicaid Population, support an integrated approach to treatment of OUD, now widely recognized as a clinical, diagnosable condition. Office-based MAT is now provided by hundreds of providers across Pennsylvania. Adding psychotherapy sessions—individual, group, family, evaluation, or rehabilitation programs—to an MAT treatment regimen with buprenorphine increases the number of days an individual stays adherent to MAT and, therefore, in recovery.

“We know that buprenorphine is a highly effective treatment for opioid use disorder. This study demonstrates that individuals who also receive counseling are better able to maintain recovery,” said Dr. Matthew Hurford, President and CEO of Community Care Behavioral Health Organization and VP of Behavioral Health for UPMC Insurance Services Division. “The impact can be seen by adding just one or two sessions, though more counseling provides even greater improvement.”

In addition to finding that outcomes improve relative to the number of counseling sessions, the study also found that the dosage of buprenorphine is important. Greater retention in treatment was associated with individuals who received 16mg or more of buprenorphine each day.

“MAT is the lynchpin of OUD treatment and we’ve made great strides in training physicians on how to prescribe and administer it. This research supports the assertion that we also need continued investment in concurrent behavioral health services,” said Dr. James Schuster, Chief Medical Officer at UPMC Insurance Services. “By supporting engagement in counseling, we can better help individuals seeking recovery.”

The research study was conducted by Community Care Behavioral Health Organization (Community Care), a nonprofit behavioral health managed care organization that is part of the UPMC Insurance Services Division, in collaboration with its 41 county partners across Pennsylvania. It examined a cohort of nearly 5,000 Medicaid members who began MAT with buprenorphine for the first time and stayed on Medical Assistance for the majority of the following two years.


About Community Care Behavioral Health

Community Care Behavioral Health Organization, a nonprofit, tax-exempt recovery-focused behavioral health managed care organization headquartered in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, manages mental health and substance use disorder services for Medical Assistance recipients in 41 Pennsylvania counties. Part of UPMC Insurance Services Division, Community Care was incorporated in 1996 with a mission to improve the health and well-being of the community through the promotion of effective and accessible behavioral health services. For more information, visit

About UPMC Insurance Services

Serving more than 4 million members, UPMC Insurance Services is owned and operated by UPMC, a world-renowned health care provider and insurer based in Pittsburgh, Pa. UPMC Insurance Services includes commercial products from UPMC Health Plan for groups as well as individuals. Commercial products also include workers' compensation and employee assistance from nationally known Workpartners.® Government products include Medicare Advantage (UPMC for Life); special needs plans for those eligible for Medicare and Medical Assistance (UPMC for Life Complete Care and UPMC Community HealthChoices); Medical Assistance (UPMC for You); and Children's Health Insurance Program (UPMC for Kids). Community Care Behavioral Health, one of the nation's largest nonprofit managed care behavioral health organizations, offers a full range of services to Commercial and Medical Assistance members. For more information, visit