Inland Empire’s MAT Hub Update: Interview with Kathy Hitchens

“Over 1100 patients in total have been served through the Inland Empire’s Hub and Spoke System so far and over 300 of those patients have continued services for 6 months or longer. Furthermore, over 300 patients have been able to receive MAT services through the Spoke partnerships throughout the Inland Empire.”

Kathy Hitchens, the grant director from the Riverside Comprehensive Treatment Center, the Inland Empire’s Hub, shared this and other inspiring updates about the Hub and Spoke System during an interview with the IEOCC.

The California Hub and Spoke System started in 2017 as a way to expand access to MAT services throughout California. Made possible through a three-year SAMHSA-funded State Targeted Response (STR) Opioid Grant Program, funding for the program goes through the end of June 2020, with a small extension through the end of September 2020.  

Through this funding, the Riverside Comprehensive Treatment Center has been able to form partnerships with ten Spoke providers throughout the Inland Empire, with an eleventh Spoke currently in development.  These partnerships have increased access to MAT services, including making buprenorphine more widely available. 

The Hub and Spoke model works by forming partnerships between Hubs, a specialized addiction center of expertise, and Spokes, providers with a buprenorphine prescriber. Spokes have access to a dedicated MAT team and have the ability to refer complex patients to their regional Hub. The project began with nineteen funded California Hubs and approximately 119 Spokes.  

One of the Spoke providers in the Inland Empire, First Step Recovery, is located in the “rural and high needs area of Victorville and Hesperia” where MAT services were limited before the project was initiated. Now, however, as an established Spoke provider, “Dr. Clare and Glenn Matney and their team have provided grant services to twenty patients last month alone.”

Two other of the Spoke partner locations are able to provide much-needed residential services, “with over 175 patients taking advantage of these services so far,” including two siblings from Victorville and a homeless individual from the Palm Springs area. By having these partnerships in place and being able to facilitate the transition from out-patient services to two different residential programs, “the Hub and Spoke System is better able to holistically meet each patient where they are at.” 

The Hub and Spoke System was also able to initiate MAT services for a drug court patient by becoming “the very first time that a drug court patient in that particular region was allowed to engage in MAT services as part of their plan.” Thus, the grant has also helped “destigmatize MAT services” for opioid use disorder patients.

Although the grant has both helped to destigmatize and increase MAT services in the region, one aspect of the grant that has proved challenging is only allowing the dispersion of methadone at the Hubs. The ability to travel to Riverside daily to receive methadone has posed a difficulty for patients, especially in the rural areas of the region. 

Counteracting this difficulty, however, is the fact that “case management is available to all of the patients in the Hub and Spoke System.”  Community providers have been able to take advantage of this in order to “better meet each patient’s needs and learn what’s important for them as individuals.” The IEOCC can further offer support to the provider community by “sharing with colleagues and other people the work that is being done and what is available for MAT patients” through the Hub and Spoke System. 

A warm thank-you to Kathy Hitchens for taking the time to talk with us about the important work that is being done and sharing success stories from the Inland Empire. For more information contact Kathy at the Riverside Comprehensive Treatment Center at 951-543-4157 or via email at Kathy.hitchens@ctcprograms.com.  The Riverside Comprehensive Treatment Center will also be giving a Hub and Spoke presentation at the next IEOCC quarterly meeting on December 10.



Hunter Gatewood