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Technical Assistance for Emergency Departments to Respond to Addiction Initiative

March 22, 2018

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The opioid epidemic has resulted in rapidly escalating utilization of health system inpatient and emergency medicine services. Between 2005 and 2014, the national rate of opioid-related inpatient stays increased 64.1 percent and the national rate of opioid-related emergency department (ED) visits increased 99.4 percent.

New data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show that this trend has continued. In the sixteen states reviewed by the CDC, ED visits for suspected opioid overdoses increased 30 percent from July 2016 through September 2017. Two of the sixteen states, Wisconsin and Delaware, experienced increases of more than 100 percent.

Patients with substance use disorder may have little or no interaction with the healthcare system. A hospital or emergency department may be the only place they receive care. In some instances, this will be for an overdose, and in other cases it may be for an injury or infection related to their substance use. This makes the hospital a critical intervention point for engaging people with SUD and linking them to treatment.

Recognizing the critical need for improved emergency department interventions for patients with substance use disorder, the Addiction Policy Forum is today announcing our Technical Assistance for Emergency Departments to Respond to Addiction initiative.

In the coming months, APF will publish evidence-based protocols for responding to addiction and overdose in the emergency department along with the research to demonstrate their effectiveness.
APF will provide technical assistance to emergency departments and other hospital clinical settings to implement evidence-based best practices for treating patients with substance use disorders. In addition to offering subject-matter expertise on best practices, APF will:
  • Map local SUD treatment providers, recovery supports, and other services;
  • Convene local SUD treatment providers to develop relationships and processes for referrals from hospital care to community-based SUD treatment;
  • Provide content and deliver trainings for hospital staff to implement evidence-based protocols;
  • Support development of IT infrastructure to facilitate and track transfers of patients from hospital to community-based care.
We have already begun piloting our technical assistance efforts at Berger Health System in Pickaway County, Ohio and three Mercy Health hospitals in the Cincinnati area.
We are supporting legislation at the federal level to improve integration of addiction interventions in emergency departments.
And we will be releasing a toolkit for emergency department and hospital administrators to implement best practices for addressing addiction.
Addiction Policy Forum

Addiction Policy Forum is a nationwide nonprofit organization dedicated to eliminating addiction as a major health problem. Our national headquarters is located in Washington, DC with resources and services in every state.