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The role of recovery peer navigators in retention in outpatient buprenorphine treatment: a retrospective cohort study.

Annals of Medicine 2024 December
BACKGROUND: Racial and ethnic disparities are evident in the accessibility of treatment for opioid use disorder (OUD). Even when medications for OUD (MOUD) are accessible, racially and ethnically minoritized groups have higher attrition rates from treatment. Existing literature has primarily identified the specific racial and ethnic groups affected by these disparities, but has not thoroughly examined interventions to address this gap. Recovery peer navigators (RPNs) have been shown to improve access and overall retention on MOUD.

PATIENTS AND METHODS: In this retrospective cohort study, we evaluate the role of RPNs on patient retention in clinical care at an outpatient program in a racially and ethnically diverse urban community. Charts were reviewed of new patients seen from January 1, 2019 through December 31, 2019. Sociodemographic and clinical visit data, including which providers and services were utilized, were collected, and the primary outcome of interest was continuous retention in care. Bivariate analysis was done to test for statistically significant associations between variables by racial/ethnic group and continuous retention in care using Student's t-test or Pearson's chi-square test. Variables with p value ≤0.10 were included in a multivariable regression model.

RESULTS: A total of 131 new patients were included in the study. RPNs improved continuous retention in all-group analysis (27.6% pre-RPN compared to 80.2% post-RPN). Improvements in continuous retention were observed in all racial/ethnic subgroups but were statistically significant in the non-Hispanic Black (NHB) group ( p  < 0.001). Among NHB, increases in continuous retention were observed post-RPN in patients with male sex ( p  < 0.001), public health insurance ( p  < 0.001), additional substance use ( p  < 0.001), medical comorbidities ( p  < 0.001), psychiatric comorbidities ( p  = 0.001), and unstable housing ( p  = 0.005). Multivariate logistic regression demonstrated that patients who lacked insurance had lower odds of continuous retention compared to patients with public insurance (aOR = 0.17, 95% CI 0.039-0.70, p  = 0.015).

CONCLUSIONS: RPNs can improve clinical retention for patients with OUD, particularly for individuals experiencing several sociodemographic and clinical factors that are typically correlated with discontinuation of care.

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