Expanding care to address the local opioid crisis in South Lake Tahoe

Dr. Matthew Wonnacott
Dr. Matthew Wonnacott

About the author

Dr. Matthew Wonnacott is Chief Medical Officer at Barton Health and certified to administer Suboxone through the Medication-assisted Treatment Program. Want to learn more about the opioid crisis and available help? Attend Barton Health’s free wellness lecture Thursday, Feb. 28, from 6 - 7 p.m. at the Barton Center for Orthopedics & Wellness. Learn more at

A recent study by Barton Health identified substance abuse as a leading health concern in our community.

To address the local opioid crisis and help those struggling with substance abuse, a new Medication-assisted Treatment (MAT) Program is now available to patients and their families.

This federally funded treatment program using Suboxone is a tremendous benefit to the region — the MAT Program eliminates the need to travel hours to the closest treatment center, and it takes a “whole person” approach that works to remove stigma while providing tools to treat opioid dependency with supportive medication.

The MAT Program through Barton Health is administered to patients who are in withdrawal. Different from methadone, which requires addiction treatment center visits, or narcan, which treats overdose, Suboxone is prescribed directly from an outpatient clinic and is coupled with behavioral health services such as counseling sessions with a clinical social worker.

Suboxone is shown to safely manage narcotic dependency and is taken daily, similar to a medication for high blood pressure, helping the patient stay off opioids.

Medication-assisted Treatment isn’t just a prescription, it gives patients the tools they need to successfully manage their opioid dependence and potentially quit. It is possible for people to become victims of circumstance when being prescribed narcotics for injuries, and need legitimate medical help with a resulting dependency.

As we work to address the local opioid crisis, it’s important to acknowledge the stigma around addiction. So often this population is stereotyped when they really need resources to quit. As many as one in four patients receiving prescription opioids long term in a primary care setting struggles with dependency.

Currently, several care providers across Barton Health have earned their X Waiver, or certification to administer Suboxone. These providers can treat patients presenting withdrawal symptoms in Barton’s Emergency Department, or with a doctor’s referral at Barton Community Health Center. After patients sign a contract committing to their treatment, they are scheduled for medication and therapy.

Those interested in the MAT Program can talk to their medical care provider for a referral, or call Barton Community Health Center at 530-543-5623. More information on the local opioid crisis and available help will be discussed at Barton’s free wellness lecture on Thursday, Feb. 28, from 6-7 p.m. at the Barton Center for Orthopedics & Wellness.

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