Expert Panel Consensus on State-Level Policies to Improve Engagement and Retention in Treatment for Opioid Use Disorder
Oct 7, 2022
A Qualitative Analysis of an Online Modified Delphi Process
Published in: Journal of Addiction Medicine (2023). doi: 10.1097/ADM.0000000000001253
Posted on rand.org Dec 4, 2023
The aim of this study was to examine expert views on the effectiveness and implementability of state policies to improve engagement and retention in treatment for opioid use disorder (OUD).
We conducted a 3-round modified Delphi process using the online ExpertLens platform. Participants included 66 experts on OUD treatment policies. Experts commented on 14 hypothetical state policies targeting treatment engagement and quality of care. Using the GRADE Evidence-to-Decision framework, we conducted reflexive thematic analysis to develop patterns of meaning from the dataset.
Only policies for providing continued access to evidence-based treatment for highly at-risk populations, settings, and periods were seen as effective in meaningfully reducing population-level opioid-related overdose mortality. Experts commented that, although the general public increasingly supports policies expanding medications for OUD and evidence-based care, ongoing stigma about OUD encourages public acceptance of punitive and paternalistic policies. Experts viewed all policies as at least moderately feasible given the current infrastructure and resources, with affordability reliant on long-term cost savings from reduced opioid-related harms. Equitability depended on whether experts perceived a policy as inherently equitable in its design as well as concerns about the potential for inequitable implementation due to structural oppression and interpersonal biases in criminal-legal, healthcare, and other systems.
Experts believe that supportive (rather than punitive) policies improve engagement and retention in OUD treatment. States could prioritize implementing supportive policies that are patient-centered and take a harm-reduction approach to enhance medications for OUD access and utilization. States could consider deimplementing punitive policies that are coercive, take an abstinence-only approach, and use punitive and restrictive measures.