Grant makes difference to those suffering from opioid abuse withdrawal

St Joseph’s Foundation of San Joaquin

A burgeoning partnership with the Public Health Institute (PHI) has realized a $260,000 grant to Dignity Health’s St. Joseph’s Medical Center in Stockton, Calif., to be utilized between April 1, 2019 and July 15, 2020. The grant, funded by the State of California and channeled through a subcontract from the PHI, will be used to implement real-time Buprenorphine treatment in the emergency room of the hospital, and will be further utilized to link patients with opioid use disorder to after- and post-acute care at area clinics through the funding and hiring of a full-time substance use navigator.

A natural outcome of the California Opioid Safety Network, a community of coalitions statewide working toward the shared goal of reducing opioid addiction and deaths, PHI’s emergency department bridge grants are focused on the adoption of safe, timely prescribing guidelines of Buprenorphine in emergency departments and in primary care offices.

According to Brett Cherrington, MD, one of three St. Joseph’s physician champions and the primary investigator on behalf of the Stockton initiative, “a significant goal is to treat patients as soon as possible when they present with symptoms of opioid use disorder, rather than delaying treatment unnecessarily. If we can prescribe Buprenorphine when a patient initially presents, and then navigate them to care quickly, a person will increase their ability to successfully overcome their addiction.”

Strong physician-leadership provided by Ben Wiederhold, MD, the medical director of the emergency department – along with the existing hospital, emergency department infrastructure, and ability to comply – made St. Joseph’s Medical Center a good fit for this grant.

Additionally, the hospital’s application made an impression on colleagues from the PHI, as this initiative will become part of St. Joseph’s graduate medical education curriculum, utilizing their emergency department residents as co-educators, along with the substance use navigator, of patients who get prescribed Buprenorphine. Family practice residents, led by family practice residency director La Donna Porter, MD, will act as educators for those inpatients with opioid use disorder, and will staff the family practice clinic which is among the primary after- and post-acute clinics to which patients will be referred.

Several other Dignity Health hospitals were awarded similar grants of various sizes and scopes, including Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital, Bakersfield Memorial, and California Hospital Medical Center.