MAHEC logo(Asheville, N.C. – January 22, 2018) — The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) is partnering with the Mountain Area Health Education Center (MAHEC) to increase the number of doctors who graduate from North Carolina residency programs with the training necessary to provide medication-assisted treatment for patients with opioid use disorder through a grant awarded to the State by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

“We need to fight the opioid crisis on every possible front,” said DHHS Secretary Mandy Cohen, M.D. “This training will be an important addition to the extensive work already being done across the state, but there are still far too many North Carolinians who don’t have access to the opioid treatment they need.”

Last year, 1,884 people in North Carolina died of an unintentional opioid overdose, and 5,848 North Carolinians were taken to emergency departments for opioid overdoses. Although the number of people receiving treatment for opioid use disorder in North Carolina is increasing, many continue to lack access to this life-saving care. These CDC grant funds will provide critical training to physicians to increase the number of doctors who can assist and treat individuals within their practice.

“It is estimated that only 10 percent of people who disclose they have an opioid use disorder are able to find a provider who can prescribe medication that is effective for preventing relapse,” said Blake Fagan, M.D., chief education officer at the Mountain Area Health Education Center. “This grant will help us train providers to treat this greatly underserved population, and it will save lives.”

Current law requires physicians to take an eight-hour training course before they may prescribe buprenorphine through medical office settings. Buprenorphine is used in medication assisted treatment, which is the use of medications in combination with counseling and behavioral therapies to treat opioid use disorders. Less than 10 percent of the physician workforce nationally has waivers to qualify them to prescribe buprenorphine.

Expanding access to medication-assisted treatment is an important public health strategy, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. SAMSHA estimates that one million people with opioid use disorder need access to MAT. Medication-assisted treatment has been shown to improve patient survival, decrease illicit opiate use and increase patients’ ability to gain and maintain employment.

MAHEC will work with medical residency programs, providing trainings across North Carolina to help residents gain experience under the supervision of faculty, so they can enter the workforce with the skills to effectively treat patients with the disorder. The training will be available through Aug. 31, 2019 and is funded through DHHS’ award from the CDC’s Cooperative Agreement for Emergency Response: Public Health Crisis Response – Opioids.

For more information about this training opportunity under the Increasing Workforce Capacity for Medication-Assisted Treatment Through Residency Programs grant, contact Elizabeth Flemming, LPC, program director for MAHEC Rural Pain Management and Substance Use Disorders Initiatives, at 828-257-4466 or For more information about DHHS opioid initiatives, contact 919-855-4840 or


 The Mountain Area Health Education Center (MAHEC) was established in 1974 and is a leader in healthcare, education, and innovation. Located in Asheville, MAHEC serves a 16-county region in Western North Carolina. It is the largest Area Health Education Center in North Carolina, which evolved to address national and state concerns with the supply, retention and quality of health professionals. MAHEC’s mission is to train the next generation of healthcare professionals for Western North Carolina through quality healthcare, innovative education, and best practice models that can be replicated nationally. MAHEC’s Biltmore campus is also home to UNC Health Sciences at MAHEC, an academic health center in partnership with UNC-Chapel Hill that includes programs from the UNC School of Medicine, UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health, and UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy.
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Media Contact: Jennifer Maurer
External Communications Manager, MAHEC