Addiction is a progressive disease and the sooner we can intervene, the better the outcomes. The purpose of Addiction Policy Forum’s Hospital Toolkit is to empower patients, families, healthcare providers and policymakers to work collaboratively to identify patients in need of help, initiate evidence-based treatments, and connect patients and families to comprehensive support services.
Addiction is a treatable disease, and recovery is possible. By combating stigma with science and implementing best practices, we have the power to compassionately address the disease of addiction at the healthcare interface and respond with the thoughtful urgency that this epidemic requires.
This toolkit is open source, and we encourage you to utilize it to begin dialogues with Emergency Department physicians, nurses, support staff and administrators in your area. Please feel free to share the videos, graphics, and information in this toolkit, and to reach out to us if there are other materials that would be useful to you.
Best Practices for Emergency Departments to Address Addiction
Addiction Policy Forum’s Hospital Video Series brings together the voices of doctors, scientists, directly impacted individuals and people in recovery to highlight the best practices Emergency Departments can implement to save lives and turn the tides of this deadly epidemic. Accessible to all audiences, this video series features experts in the field and provides education about critical interventions including universal screening, ED-initiated treatment, naloxone distribution, and peer recovery support services.
As is the case with other life-threatening medical conditions, patients suffering from substance use disorders can greatly benefit from their primary care providers and support systems being involved in their treatment. Recognizing the lethal nature of overdose emergencies and the heightened risk of a patient who has experienced a nonfatal overdose going on to experience a fatal overdose, it is imperative that Emergency Department providers be supported in their efforts to provide their patients the best possible chance at survival.
In the vast majority of cases, 42 CFR Part 2 regulations protecting the confidentiality of substance use disorder treatment records do not apply to communications by Emergency Department staff to patients’ family members after an overdose, because the staff do not meet the definition of specialized SUD treatment providers. In these cases, ED staff need only comply with HIPAA regulations in determining when and how to notify families after an overdose.
If a patient has the capacity to make health decisions, and if the patient consents, a healthcare provider may discuss the patient’s health with a family member or friend. In most cases, if the patient is unconscious or does not have capacity to make health decisions (for example, an unconscious patient who arrives at the ED with signs that she is experiencing an overdose), a provider may share information about the patient with her family and close friends who are involved in her care, if the provider determines that doing so is in the best interests of the patient.
Read the full memo “Privacy Rights of Patients Treated for Overdose in Emergency Departments."
Watch a brief video about a family’s experiences with post-overdose notification: