Alameda Health System (AHS)-Highland Hospital is among 31 health facilities selected from across the state to participate in the California Bridge Program, an accelerated training program for healthcare providers facilitated by the Public Health Institute’s Bridge program to enhance access to around-the-clock treatment for substance use disorders. Program sites will receive funding, training, and technical assistance to improve and increase access to facility-wide treatment and referral of acute symptoms of substance use disorders.
The 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).
“Highland Hospital has taken a systemic approach to treating substance use disorders with medication assisted treatment. We are now seen as a hub in Alameda County for patients seeking this type of care,” said Karen Wise, PsyD, director of behavioral health integration services for AHS. “This funding will allow us to continue building on the work we’ve done connecting patients from the emergency room into outpatient treatment and allow us to make more outreach into the hospital and inpatient units.”
A referral to an addiction treatment program has been the most that hospitals have generally been able to provide for patients identified as needing treatment for opioid use disorder. The Bridge model treats emergency rooms and acute care hospitals as a critical window for initiating treatment. When patients in opioid withdrawal come seeking medical care, including for reasons not related to opioid use, they will be offered a dose of medication such as buprenorphine to ease severe symptoms of withdrawal, and then they will be connected with outpatient treatment in the community. Studies have shown that patients given this option of medication designed for addiction treatment are more likely to remain in care than those who are given referral information alone.
“By suppressing withdrawal long enough to create a bridge for patients to enter and remain in treatment, physicians can save lives,” said Andrew Herring, MD, medical director of the AHS Substance Use Disorder Treatment Program and Principal Investigator for the Statewide California Bridge Program. “We know this model works, and now we are bringing it to hospitals and emergency rooms all across the state that are anxious for real solutions to address the enormous pain and suffering they see every day caused by the opioid epidemic.”
The 18-month California Bridge training program, with funding from the California Department of Health Care Services and Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), aims to ensure that any interaction a patient has with the healthcare system can be a potential opportunity to enter into treatment. It approaches substance use disorder as a treatable chronic illness—creating an environment that welcomes disclosure of opioid use, provides rapid evidence-based treatment, and enables patients to enter and remain in treatment.
There will be three types of sites in the California Bridge program: Star Sites, centers of excellence for initiating treatment of substance use disorders from anywhere in the hospital; Rural Bridge Sites, where treatment will begin primarily in the emergency department with the support of substance use navigators; and Bridge Clinics, ‘low-threshold’ follow-up clinics patients can visit after starting treatment in the hospital setting. Highland Hospital is considered a Star Site.
ABOUT THE BRIDGE PROGRAM
Bridge, a program of the Public Health Institute, is establishing a culture of evidence-based medicine to treat substance use disorders through an accelerated training program for healthcare providers that supports, enhances, and increases access to 24/7 treatment in every community. Though California ranks only 37th in the country for prescription opioid deaths, the death rates in 16 rural California counties are high enough to put them in the top 10 for the whole nation, and overdoses by synthetic opioids were up 44 percent in California in 2017.
About Alameda Health System
Alameda Health System (AHS), headquartered in Oakland, Calif., is a leading public health care provider and medical training institution recognized for its world-class patient and family-centered system of care. Our mission, Caring, Healing, Teaching, Serving All, reflects our commitment to promoting wellness, eliminating disparities and optimizing the health of all communities in Alameda County. We currently provide more than 4,500 jobs and are home to more than 1,100 physicians across nine facilities, including five hospitals and a network of community-based wellness centers. For more information, visit AlamedaHealthSystem.org