EL CENTRO – El Centro Regional Medical Center (ECRMC) presented a new medical assistance treatment program Wednesday, Feb. 13, after being one of 31 facilities selected statewide to participate in the California Bridge Program (CPB) allowing healthcare providers to enhance access to around-the-clock treatment for substance use disorders.
Background information from ECRMC stated generally, the most that hospitals had been able to provide for patients identified as needing treatment for opioid use disorder was a referral to an addiction treatment program. The Bridge model views emergency rooms and acute care hospitals as a critical window for initiating treatment. Approved program sites will receive funding, training, and technical assistance to improve referrals and increase access to facility-wide treatment for those with acute substance abuse disorders.
According to ECRMC, the 18-month CPB funded by the California Department of Health Care Services and Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration aims to ensure any interaction a patient has with the healthcare system can potentially be an opportunity to begin treatment. It approaches a substance use disorder as a treatable chronic illness and creates an environment that welcomes disclosure of opioid use, provides rapid evidence-based treatment, and enables patients to enter and remain in treatment.
When patients in opioid withdrawal seek any kind of medical care, they will be offered a dose of a medication, such as buprenorphine, to ease severe symptoms of withdrawal, and then will be connected with an outpatient treatment facility in the community.
“For the first time in Imperial Valley, the ECRMC emergency department will be able to start treatment with buprenorphine,” said Medical Director of the ECRMC Emergency Department Dr. Leslie Mukau. “We will be in partnership with Behavioral Health Outpatient Clinic where these patients will be able to continue this type of treatment, which will bring a bridge over our patients to walk toward a new dawn of hope and wellness.”
“Sometimes with drug use, patients have more than just a substance problem, they can also have psychological problems,” said Chief Nursing Officer Louise Kenney, “so we will work with the Behavioral Health Center as a referral for teens and parents so they can attend the appointment and set up a plan and program for the child and parent.”
Kenney also said patients who may not be able to afford healthcare will be assigned to a case manager from the emergency department and will be provided with resources to find a church or program funded by the government for help.
According to ECRMC, studies have shown that patients given the option of medication designed for addiction treatment are more likely to remain in care than those who are given referral information alone.
“To our local community in Imperial Valley,” said Dr. Mukau, “this program means that we will be able to save lives and bring hope to our members with substance abuse [problems] by decreasing mortality and bringing front-line treatment that has not been available to them.”