J. Eileen Morley, MD with patientWe have all heard of the Opioid Crisis, but what is anyone actually doing to help fix things? Enter the California Bridge Program. This spring, the Emergency Department at Adventist Health + Rideout was one of only 31 hospitals in California selected to participate in this evidence-based and common-sense program to help people who suffer from opioid use disorder, 24/7.
The Opioid Crisis often hits rural counties the hardest, and ours are no exception. According to the CA Department of Public Health, the rate of opioid overdose deaths in Yuba, Sutter, and Nevada counties all exceed the California state average. There are many reasons for this, but one main reason is how difficult it has been to seek help. Adventist Health + Rideout’s Emergency Department is changing that.
When patients in opioid withdrawal come to the Emergency Department, they will be offered a dose of the medication buprenorphine (brand name Suboxone) to ease severe symptoms of withdrawal, and then they will be connected with outpatient treatment in the community. Our Emergency Department physicians, PA/NPs, and nurses have all been trained to treat an individuals’ opioid withdrawal symptoms with this medication which is quick to work and very effective.
The Bridge program also brings our community maybe the most important piece of this program – the Substance Use Navigator (SUN). Our highly experienced and very down-to-earth SUN, Mr. Todd O’Berg, works closely with our Emergency Department staff and each patient to support them throughout the entire process, from admission into the Emergency Department through transition to continued outpatient treatment. We have partnered with several local primary care clinics and substance use treatment centers in the area, creating a network ready to meet each individual’s unique needs.
Since the Bridge program started six months ago, Mr. O’Berg has been able to meet with over 300 patients in need of help with substance use disorders, be that opioid use disorder, alcoholism, or issues with other substances. He is incredibly dedicated to helping patients be successful. By scheduling a clinic appointment to continue treating their opioid use disorder in only a few days’ time, following up with them after their ED visit, and helping them overcome any unforeseen barriers, over 80% of these patients have successfully made it to this appointment.
One anonymous patient gave us this statement to share: “I would say, I felt completely hopeless and lost in my addiction. I had no clue what to do to help myself get sober until I called the ER. I think it’s amazing that the hospital offers what it does to help opiate addicts like myself get the help that they need by providing suboxone and drug counselors on site. If it hadn’t been for the great staff there I don’t know where I’d be right now regarding my sobriety. Not only did they care about getting me clean, they also made me feel safe and that I mattered. Thanks to the program at Rideout, I am now three months clean and plan to keep working hard to stay sober. I will be forever grateful for them and their program.”
Many people don’t know where to begin to seek help for their opioid use disorder. And if they do ask their doctor, often the wait time for appointments or referrals is long. Having the Bridge program at Adventist Health + Rideout’s Emergency Department means that anyone, anytime, in our community can access the best evidence-based treatment for opioid use disorder.
In addition to the Bridge program, another way the Emergency Department is working to save lives from the Opioid Crisis is our participation in the Naloxone Distribution Project. Naloxone (brand name Narcan) is a nasal spray medication that reverses opioid overdoses. This medication is given out free of charge, with teaching on how to use it, to any patient or visitor in the hospital who thinks they might be in a situation to save a life when witnessing an opioid overdose. Whether you are a police officer or fire fighter, someone who regularly uses opioids, a parent of small children who might accidentally get into someone’s pill bottles, etc, many of us may be in the situation where we can save a life by administering this medication to someone in need. If you are in the Emergency Department, just ask any staff member for this medication, and then you too can be prepared to save a life.
- Eileen Morley, MD
Emergency Medicine Physician
Assistant Medical Director of the Emergency Department
Adventist Health + Rideout ED Bridge Program Director
The Public Health Institute’s California Bridge Program is funded through the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) State Targeted Response to the Opioid Crisis Grant to the California Department of Health Care Services (DHCS). The Naloxone Distribution Project is also funded through DHCS.