Pittsburgh hospital creates innovative approach for addiction treatment
Doctors at UPMC Mercy in Pittsburgh grew weary of seeing the same people return to the hospital again and again after repeated overdoses, so created an innovative program designed to help break the addiction cycle.
Under the new program, addicts leave with a vial of Narcan, an appointment for treatment and the expectation that their health insurer will be offering help the next day.
This new response to overdoses, a brainchild of staff at Mercy and at UPMC Health Plan, is a particularly aggressive version of the so-called “warm handoff” — the push to get people into treatment shortly after a drug emergency.
Meanwhile, the General Assembly is considering allowing a “hard handoff,” including involuntary commitment to treatment following an overdose.
“We know that the people who are at the highest risk of dying from an overdose are those who have had an [earlier] overdose,” said Michael Lynch, a UPMC Mercy Hospital emergency room doctor and medical director of the Pittsburgh Poison Center. “We understand and we recognize that getting into treatment is very difficult for a number of reasons.”
In addition to Narcan, the hospital is taking proactive steps to help the addict leave with a contact to a specific treatment program. Specialists in the Mercy ER now talk to overdose survivors about their needs and start calling providers, looking for a program that can start the next day.
“There’s no central organizing entity that has a real-time list of every facility or outpatient program” along with the number of open slots, said James Schuster, chief medical officer for Medicaid and behavioral services at UPMC Health Plan.
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To read more about how UPMC Mercy is taking innovative approaches to meet the needs of addicts, please visit the Post-Gazette.