An emergency room-based addiction treatment program at UC Davis Medical Center is gaining interest as a contributory solution to America’s opioid epidemic, both from the national news media and other California health systems.

As part of a series about promising policy responses to the opioid crisis, the national news website Vox published an extensive article this January exploring ER addiction treatment programs at UC Davis Medical Center, Marshall Medical Center and other select hospitals. The 4,700-word piece was part of an ongoing series that the news site says aims to “put a bigger spotlight on the policies that work,” and appeared in a section of the publication made possible by The Rockefeller Foundation.

This spring, physicians and substance abuse counselors from more than 20 California hospitals also attended an intensive training at UC Davis Health about how to establish programs that rapidly increase access to 24/7 treatment for substance use disorders.

UC Davis Health’s own program identifies opioid-addicted patients in the ED and starts them on buprenorphine, an oral schedule III opioid medication that significantly reduces withdrawal symptoms. Once stabilized, patients receive a “warm handoff” to a certified drug and alcohol counselor who knows local rehabilitation programs and can customize treatment plans.

At the time of publication, 86 percent of patients treated in UC Davis Medical Center’s ED for opiate use disorder were engaged in outpatient treatment after discharge. “We’ve started looking at addiction as a disease that is treatable, rather than a death sentence or moral failing,” said Aimee Moulin, an associate professor of emergency medicine. Moulin, immediate past president of California’s American College of Emergency Physicians chapter, was the brainchild of the UC Davis Health program with Debra Kahn, an associate clinical professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences.

Moulin co-led the March training workshop for fellow health systems, hosted by California Bridge and part of the Substance Abuse Navigator (SUN) program. It trains physicians on best practices for prescribing buprenorphine, teaches the medical model of addiction to reduce stigma around addiction, and helps foster working relationships with addiction treatment facilities.

» Learn more: ‘Despite an opioid crisis, most ERs don’t offer addiction treatment. California is changing that.’ Vox, January 19