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New ‘bridge clinics’ at UK, UofL and in NKy link emergency care to opioid-addiction treatment

Patients with opioid addictions who are treated in emergency rooms at the University of Kentucky or St. Elizabeth Hospital in Northern Kentucky can now go directly into addiction treatment if they choose it.

“An essential part of the substance-use-disorder treatment system is to be able provide treatment on demand rather than sending patients who are at risk for overdose death to treatment waiting lists,” Dr. Laura Fanucchi, one of the creators of the clinic, said in a UK news release.

“This way we can engage patients and link to treatment at the moment of contact with the health care system, and hopefully reduce substance use related morbidity and mortality.”

The First Bridge Clinic, located at the UK Center on Drug and Alcohol Research, is set up to provide evidence-based care including medications approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration “for opioid-use disorder, counseling services, and monitoring aimed to promote remission and recovery,” says the release.

UK’s “bridge clinic” is one of three that are part of a project to fight opioid abuse in the state, funded by a nearly $10.5 million 21st Century CURES Act grant that is earmarked to be spent on a combination of evidence-based projects that focus on prevention, treatment and harm reductions.

St. Elizabeth opened the second bridge clinic at its Edgewood hospital in October and is working to expand its services to other St. Elizabeth hospitals.

The third one will be affiliated with the University of Louisville Hospital.

The news release says that after being awarded the grant, the state began to look for ideas to address the opioid epidemic and Drs. Sharon Walsh, Michelle Lofwall and Laura Fanucchi submitted a plan to make hospital emergency departments a first point of treatment for people with addictions.

“We’re developing a new clinic and it’s going to partner closely with the ED so when patients are referred they can receive care rapidly and within the same health care system with the aid of peer support,” Walsh said in the release.

Patients with opioid-use disorders end up in an emergency room for a variety of reasons, whether it be an overdose or a “deep-seated infection” related to their injection sites. Until now, such patients would be treated for their overdose or medical condition, but would not receive care for their underlying substance disorder.

“The need for this clinic is clear,” Lofwall said in the release. “If the underlying addiction isn’t treated the person goes back to active addiction and is at very high risk for death and/or reinfection requiring another hospitalization with complicated medical and surgical treatments.”

Kentucky Health News

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