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Physician Assistant Studies Program Begins MAT Waiver Training Initiative

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Dec. 7, 2020) -- Cheryl Vanderford, MPAS, PA-C, assistant professor in the University of Kentucky College of Health Sciences’ Physician Assistant Studies program, has begun incorporating a new training initiative into her behavioral health course, PAS 655: Psychosocial Factors in Primary Health Care.

As of this year, PAs in Kentucky now have the right to prescribe Buprenorphine, a controlled substance used to treat patients with opioid use disorder.

However, in order to obtain the permission to prescribe Buprenorphine, PAs must complete the medication assisted therapy (MAT) waiver training. Vanderford says it is essential to incorporate this program into her class curriculum.

“Part of our mission in the PA program is to create transformative providers, which is what the MAT training is helping to do,” she said.

In order to complete and obtain the MAT waiver, students must complete the full 24-hour training. However, only eight hours are required in Vanderford’s course. Students will be encouraged to complete the remaining 16 hours of self-guided training during their clinical year.

Stephanie Moore, UKPAS Class of 2022 Student, has found this training to be an all-around positive experience.

“It has been extremely beneficial to us and has coincided with some of what we had covered in class! It gave us the opportunity to dive in deeper and envision the benefits that this training could provide to our patients,” she said.

Moore says she is looking forward to being able to play a role in helping to solve the opioid crisis we are experiencing in rural Kentucky.

“Addiction programs are vital, and as an up-and-coming provider, it is nice to know that I will have the ability to prescribe medications that will help my patients who are struggling with SUD,” she said.

Not only is this training helping to prepare the next generation of PAs to be able to provide more well-rounded care to their patients suffering from SUD, Vanderford says it is also improving their employment opportunities upon graduation.

This MAT training program not only helps to make the goal of a healthier Kentucky wildly possible, but also further prepares our PA students to serve and provide care to some of our most vulnerable populations. We are thankful to Vanderford and her diligence for making this opportunity a reality.