The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center is the first medical center in central Ohio to offer medication-assisted treatment (MAT) in the Emergency Department for patients with opioid use disorder. Funded through a grant from the Ohio Department of Health and in coordination with Franklin County Public Health, the program started at Ohio State East Hospital in November 2018, and it has since expanded services to University Hospital.

When a person with opioid use disorder is identified in the Emergency Department, a team of providers evaluates the patient and starts MAT, if appropriate and if the patient is interested. MAT allows the brain circuitry to stabilize from the chaos created by substance use disorder. It also decreases craving, provides symptomatic control from withdrawal and, most significantly, decreases mortality by 50% if the medication is continued for up to a year. At Ohio State, providers prescribe buprenorphine (usually in the form of Suboxone) for MAT.

Since November 2018, Ohio State EDs have started 120 patients on MAT. These patients are linked to post-discharge MAT, through inpatient or outpatient services at Talbot Hall, or to other services in the community. Studies have shown that this direct linkage to MAT increases retention in treatment. Patients receive a “bridge prescription” of Suboxone to last until the follow-up appointment.

ED providers also refer the patient to a peer recovery coach, who helps the patient through recovery and can help connect the patient to resources for transportation to appointments or to work on logistics involved with rebuilding the patient’s life.

Emily Kauffman, DO, MPH, is the principal investigator of this study and is encouraged by the success of the program so far. She will lead implementation of a second grant funded by the CDC in November.

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