BMC addiction expert receives award from American Association of Nurse Practitioners

March 31, 2017

Colleen T. Labelle, MSN, RN-BC, CARN, director of Boston Medical Center's Office-Based Addiction Treatment (OBAT) program, has been awarded the 2017 Advocate State Award for Excellence by the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) -- a prestigious honor and one of only two awards given to nurse practitioners (NP) by AANP in Massachusetts. LaBelle will be honored at a ceremony and reception held during the AANP 2017 National Conference in June.

The State Award for Nurse Practitioner Excellence, founded in 1991, recognizes a nurse practitioner in a state who demonstrates excellence in practice. In 1993, the State Award for Nurse Practitioner Advocate was added to recognize the efforts of individuals who have made a significant contribution toward increasing awareness and recognition of nurse practitioners.

LaBelle had a decade of experience working as a nurse manager for HIV/AIDS patients before she led the development of the "Massachusetts Model," which provides substance use disorder treatment in a patient's primary care setting under the management of a nurse. Established in 2003 at BMC in collaboration with the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, the sustainable nurse care manager model has been replicated in primary care practices across the state and country.

Early on in her career, LaBelle saw that many of her patients were struggling with addiction, but so many did not have access to treatment. Since then, she has been a champion of expanding access to substance use disorder treatment by overseeing the education of providers and implementation of programs at community health centers across Massachusetts, sitting on the Commonwealth of Massachusetts' State Board of Nursing, and advocating for increased access to services for patients with opioid addiction.

While LaBelle is not a NP, she's specialized in nursing leadership and has been an advocate for nurse care managers to gain prescriptive rights in a primary care setting to treat patients with substance use disorders. Her advocacy on the state and federal level helped pass a bill under the CARA Act, the first major federal addiction legislation in 40 years that was signed under President Obama in 2016. LaBelle has helped decrease the stigma around addiction by bringing treatment to patients where they normally access medical care. SheLaBe has also published several studies showing the effectiveness of the Massachusetts Model in treating addiction and expanding access to care, and in 2015, LaBelle was named to Governor Charlie Baker's 18-member opioid addiction task force

"I am honored to be a recipient of this award and that substance use disorders have come to the forefront of today's public health crises," said LaBelle. "Nurses are in a unique position to help treat these patients, and expanding access to NP to prescribe buprenorphine is critical in the midst of the opioid epidemic. I am hopeful that engaging NPs to care for these patients will expand access to treatment, decrease the overdose rates and improve outcomes for our patients."

Boston University Medical Center

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