Little Cities of Hope: Opioid Treatment and Harm Reduction Services in Emergency Departments


By Christinna Barnett, Peer Navigator; Bridge Program Castleview Hospital

Castleview Hospital and the University of Utah implementing a Medication for Opioid Use Disorder (MOUD) program in the Emergency Department (ED) at Castleview Hospital is a cause for optimism. The World Health Organization has called MOUD “one of the most effective types of pharmacological therapy of opioid dependence.” MOUD quells cravings and allows patients receiving it to stabilize their physical dependency. This stability allows MOUD patients to achieve healthy social, psychological and lifestyle changes.

Carbon and Emery counties have some of the highest overdose rates in Utah and are higher than the United States average per 100,000 population (Utah Department of Health & Human Services). Carbon County is consistently among the Top 50 counties for opioid dispensing rates per 100 people in the United States. Medical providers within Carbon and Emery counties have responded to a survey indicating that opioid use disorder (OUD) is ranging from being a burden to being a huge burden as a response to the survey.

Over the past few years, great inroads have been made in reducing overdoses and OUD through harm reduction efforts, recovery assistance, availability of naloxone, reducing treatment stigma and increasing the availability of much needed counseling. Continuing these efforts and implementing the MOUD program to reduce overdoses and initiating treatment for OUD in the ED will allow more patients to benefit from gaining access to treatment in the emergency department and to continue in the recovery process.

The University of Utah ED has an extraordinarily successful program called the “Bridge” program. The Bridge program is the model that will be implemented in the Castleview ED through a partnership with the University of Utah. This process includes initiating low-threshold buprenorphine in the ED, along with Naloxone distribution/training, and linking patients to a medical provider to continue MOUD treatment and counseling by our peer navigator. This grant will also have funds to help uninsured individuals who are seeking help for OUD.

Often, people who live in rural areas must travel great distances to receive care and this program removes part of that barrier. Castleview Hospital has the only ED in the Carbon and Emery County areas. With the partnership of the University of Utah and Castleview, the Bridge program is anticipated to provide a significant reduction in overdoses and provide a needed enhancement to existing treatment availability for patients who experience OUD.

More information will be forthcoming with the anticipated start date for the Bridge program slated in the spring. Please contact Christinna Barnett at (435) 650-0028 for additional information about the Bridge program or to inquire about existing services.

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