OAKLAND, Calif.March 26, 2024 — Patients who receive buprenorphine for opioid use disorder (OUD) in the Emergency Department (ED) are more likely to remain engaged in treatment 30 days later. That’s according to new research conducted from seven California EDs including Alameda Health System’s (AHS) at the Wilma Chan Highland Hospital Campus in Oakland, Calif.

Dr. Andrew Herring, emergency physician and chief of addiction medicine at AHS, is lead author on the report, which is sponsored by the Public Health Institute’s CA Bridge Patient Outcomes Study. The research points to emergency rooms as critical gateways for providers to reach and treat patients with opioid use disorder. Emergency departments are often the lowest-barrier access point for people seeking immediate health care.

Of the 464 study participants with confirmed OUD, 86% accepted and started buprenorphine treatment in the ED. Buprenorphine is a drug that manages opioid cravings and withdrawal symptoms. It can be administered a variety of ways, including in a shot that lasts up to 30 days.

Patients who received buprenorphine were two times more likely to remain engaged in OUD treatment 30 days post-discharge compared to those who did not receive treatment in the ED. These findings, published in the Journal of American Medical Association (JAMA), reinforce EDs as critical access points to highly effective, life-saving medication for addiction treatment and follow-up care.

“People want treatment. The problem is they often can’t get it,” Dr. Herring said. “Our emergency room is an ideal setting to reach patients struggling with OUD. By meeting people where they are at, and treating them when they want to be treated, we have a chance to make a real impact on improving survival in the midst of this opioid epidemic.”

Read the findings of the study here.

“There is an urgent need for large-scale interventions to reduce overdose deaths. EDs see a growing number of overdose patients, many of whom are at high risk of dying within a year after discharge. This research shows that initiation of buprenorphine in the emergency department, combined with linkage to outpatient treatment, saves lives. CA Bridge has made unprecedented progress in changing the standard of care in California’s EDs, and there is still an enormous opportunity to do more,” said Dr. Aimee Moulin of CA Bridge, a program of the Public Health Institute.

Figure 1: California Department of Public Health, California Overdose Surveillance Dashboard

Overdose deaths in California have increased exponentially since 2015 and emergency rooms continue to see growing numbers of overdose patients. The Bridge Clinic at AHS is at the forefront of bringing opioid use disorder treatment to patients in Alameda County. AHS is the public, safety-net health system that serves all in Alameda County, especially the most vulnerable and under-resourced populations.

“This is the work that Alameda Health System prioritizes and excels at,” said AHS CEO James Jackson. “We have seen an extreme need for opioid use disorder treatment services in our community, and we are meeting that need with evidence-based services that are easily accessible to our patients who need it most.”

About Alameda Health System

Alameda Health System (AHS) is a leading public, integrated health care provider and medical training institution recognized for its world-class patient and family-centered care. AHS provides comprehensive medical treatment, health promotion and disease prevention throughout our integrated network of hospitals, clinics and health services. AHS includes three acute care hospitals, a psychiatric hospital, four ambulatory care wellness centers, five post-acute facilities, and the only adult Level 1 Trauma Center and psychiatric emergency department in Alameda County. AHS is committed to promoting wellness and optimizing the health of the community through the mission of caring, healing, teaching and serving all. For more information, visit AlamedaHealthSystem.org.

Eleanor Ajala
Manager, Media and Communications
Alameda Health System
(510) 421-9222