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Medication can save lives for people with opioid use disorder, but Dr. Eric Weintraub saw that many who needed it didn’t have access to treatment.

A professor of psychiatry, Weintraub runs the Division of Addition, Research at Treatment at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. He spearheaded and directs a mobile telemedicine unit for underserved areas that video conferences with a doctor who can prescribe medication that has been shown to cut overdose rates by 50%. It is staffed with a nurse, peer recovery specialist and substance use counselor. In seven years, the program has helped people in six rural Maryland counties, including Caroline County where there was a severe lack of telehealth access.

Weintraub’s work recently received funding to implement another mobile treatment unit and double the number of clinics next year.

“Over 200 patients have been treated on the mobile unit,” Weintraub said. “Outcomes for treatment have been similar to in-person treatment, with good retention rates and significantly decreased use of illicit opioids.”

He has also used telemedicine to improve care at rural detention centers — an urgent need because the risk of overdose is high in untreated individuals upon release.

In the emergency departments of the University of Maryland Medical Center and Midtown campuses, Weintraub has also directed a screening, brief intervention, referral and treatment program that connect patients with substance use disorders within the emergency department to a peer specialist counselor who can help engage them in treatment, saving lives and reducing the rate of patient readmissions.

“Dr. Weintraub is an exemplary leader in health care and for his service in providing novel, life-saving care to our community members — and particularly to the underserved,” said Dr. Jill Rach Beisel, professor and chair, and associate professor, in the department of psychiatry in the University of Maryland School of Medicine.

This is a winner profile from The Daily Record's Health Care Heroes awards. Information for this profile was sourced from the honoree's application for the award.