Mental Health Matters: Medication assisted treatment for substance use disorders  

LAKE COUNTY — Opioid use disorder can happen to anyone and can happen with any type of opioid, whether it’s using illegal drugs or becoming addicted to prescription medication. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, an estimated 2 million people struggle with opioid use disorders.

To combat the ongoing opioid epidemic, West Michigan Community Mental Health provides an effective and clinically proven service called Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) that can help people break free from addiction. MAT is the use of medications, in combination with behavioral health supports such as counseling, case management and peer services, to provide a whole-person approach to treat opioid use disorder and alcohol use disorder.

Medications used in MAT are approved by the Food and Drug Administration and MAT programs are clinically driven and tailored to meet each person’s individual needs. The prescribed medications operate to normalize brain chemistry, block the euphoric effects of opioids and alcohol, relieve physiological cravings, and normalize body functions without the negative effects of the abused drugs.

The ultimate goal of MAT is full recovery, including the ability to live a self-directed life.

West Michigan CMH has provided MAT services to more than 120 individuals since starting the service in February 2019. One success story comes from a 28-year-old woman who turned her life around thanks to MAT services.

Wishing to remain anonymous, she came to CMH for treatment, but had difficulty engaging in treatment and continued to struggle with sobriety. Following in-patient treatment, she was able to use MAT to drastically improve her recovery.

“I came to CMH and was all sketched out, hearing voices and seeing things,” the 28-year-old woman said. “When I was doped out, I was always antsy because I was looking for my next fix.”

Using the resources provided by CMH, she now knows how a life of sobriety is the life she wants.

“I wake up happy now. I thought drugs made me happy, but it was just a temporary fix. It was no way to live. Now I can see that I can strive and thrive without drugs. I’m back to being myself again, being a jokester and trying to lift everyone up instead of isolating myself and thinking drugs were the answer.”

She praises the buprenorphine (Suboxone) treatments prescribed through MAT combined with group therapy for making a difference in her life.

MAT is offered through West Michigan CMH through community partnerships with Salvation Army Turning Point in Ludington and Baldwin and Northwest Michigan Health Services in Shelby and Ludington. MAT has been shown to save lives and break the cycle that makes a person feel so dependent on opioids and alcohol. The addiction and the problems it causes can feel out of control, but with MAT people can find hope and relief for the first time in a long time, and that can make a world of difference.

MAT services are provided as part of West Michigan CMH’s federal designation as a Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinic. For more information or to access services, call West Michigan CMH at 1-800-992-2061.

— Alan Neushwander is the director of public relations & customer service at West Michigan Community Mental Health. He can be reached at 231-843-5440 or email