"It's a place that gives me hope": A qualitative evaluation of a buprenorphine-naloxone group visit program in an urban federally qualified health center

Subst Abus. 2021;42(4):858-864. doi: 10.1080/08897077.2021.1876202. Epub 2021 Jan 25.


Background: Medication for opioid use disorder (MOUD) with buprenorphine is effective in treating opioid use disorder yet remains underutilized. Scant research has examined the experience of patients, clinic staff, and providers in a "low-threshold" group-based MOUD program. This study evaluates a "low-threshold" MOUD program at a federally qualified health center (FQHC) in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania through the perspectives of its key stakeholders. Methods: This qualitative study involved focus groups of patients, providers, and clinic staff. Focus groups were conducted between October 2017 and June 2018. Grounded theory was used for analysis. Results: There were a total of 10 focus groups, including 20 patient participants and 26 staff members. Program participants noted that a strength of the program is its person-centered harm reduction approach, which is reflected in the program's policies and design. Program participants discussed the programmatic design choices that facilitated their participation and engagement in the program: ease of access, integration into primary care, and group-based visit model. Challenges in program implementation included varying acceptance and understanding of harm reduction among staff, the unpredictability of clinic volume and workflow, and the need to balance access to primary care and MOUD. Conclusion: This group-based MOUD program's philosophy of person-centered harm reduction, low-barrier approach, the structure of group-based visits, and integrated care contributes to increased patient access and retention. Understanding the strengths and challenges of the program may be useful for other safety-net clinics considering a MOUD program.

Keywords: Buprenorphine; group-based visits; harm reduction; low-threshold; medication for opioid use disorder; opioid-related disorders.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Buprenorphine* / therapeutic use
  • Buprenorphine, Naloxone Drug Combination / therapeutic use
  • Harm Reduction
  • Humans
  • Opiate Substitution Treatment
  • Opioid-Related Disorders* / drug therapy
  • Philadelphia


  • Buprenorphine, Naloxone Drug Combination
  • Buprenorphine