Opioid-related overdoses and the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) represent two of the deadliest crises in United States' history and together constitute a syndemic. The intersecting risks of this syndemic underscore the urgent need to implement effective opioid use disorder (OUD) treatments that are sustainable amid COVID-19 mitigation strategies. In response to new federal guidance released during the pandemic, opioid treatment programs (OTPs) have quickly innovated to implement new systems of medication delivery. OTPs rapid implementation of new medication delivery models defies conventional wisdom about the pace of research transfer. As part of an ongoing cluster-randomized type 3 hybrid trial evaluating strategies to implement contingency management (CM), select staff of eight OTPs had been trained to deliver CM and were in the midst of receiving ongoing implementation support. As COVID-19 emerged, all eight OTPs mirrored trends in the addiction field and effectively adapted to federal/state demands to implement new methods of medication delivery. However, over the past few months, necessity has arguably been the mother of implementation. We have observed greater variance among these OTPs' success with the additional implementation of adjunctive CM. The speed and variability of innovation raises novel questions about drivers of implementation. We argue that the mother of the next innovation should be a public call for a progressive, thoughtful set of public health policies and other external setting levers to address the needs of those with OUD and the OTPs that serve them.
Is necessity also the mother of implementation? COVID-19 and the implementation of evidence-based treatments for opioid use disorders