Facilitators and barriers in implementing buprenorphine in the Veterans Health Administration

Psychol Addict Behav. 2011 Jun;25(2):215-24. doi: 10.1037/a0022776.


Opioid dependence is a chronic, relapsing disorder that deleteriously influences the health of those afflicted. Sublingual buprenorphine opioid agonist treatment (OAT) has been shown to be safe, effective, and cost-effective for the treatment of opioid dependence in nonspecialized, office-based settings, including the Veterans Health Administration (VHA). We sought to examine and describe provider-, facility-, and system-level barriers and facilitators to implementing buprenorphine therapy within the VHA. From June 2006 to October 2007, we conducted semistructured telephone interviews of key personnel at a national sample of VHA facilities with high prevalence of opioid dependence and without methadone OAT programs. Sites were categorized based on the number of veterans receiving buprenorphine prescriptions: More Buprenorphine (MB, >40 prescriptions, 5 sites), Some Buprenorphine (SB, 5-40 prescriptions, 3 sites), and No Buprenorphine (NB, 0-5 prescriptions, 9 sites). Interviews were taped, transcribed, and coded; consensus of coding themes was reached; and data were evaluated using grounded theory. Sixty-two staff members were interviewed. For NB sites, perceived patient barriers included lack of need and attitudes/stigma associated with opioid dependence. Provider barriers included lack of interest, stigma toward the population, and lack of education about buprenorphine-OAT. Prominent facilitators at MB sites included having established need, provider interest, and resources/time available for buprenorphine-OAT. The presence of a champion/role-model for buprenorphine care greatly facilitated its implementation. We conclude that factors that enable or impede buprenorphine-OAT vary by facility. Strategies and policies to encourage implementation of buprenorphine should be adaptable and target needs of each facility.

MeSH terms

  • Attitude of Health Personnel*
  • Buprenorphine / therapeutic use*
  • Health Services Accessibility*
  • Health Services Needs and Demand
  • Humans
  • Narcotic Antagonists / therapeutic use*
  • Opioid-Related Disorders / prevention & control*
  • United States
  • United States Department of Veterans Affairs
  • Veterans Health


  • Narcotic Antagonists
  • Buprenorphine