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LPG ED: Expanding Access to Opioid Use Disorder Treatment

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Author name: Lee Health

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Buprenorphine is a vital drug in the treatment of opioid use disorder (OUD), especially when a person with OUD arrives in an emergency department. Research has shown that not only does buprenorphine help people with OUD initiate and stay in treatment, but the medication also reduces overdose deaths and other associated complications.

Yet, despite its effectiveness in the emergency room, people who may benefit from buprenorphine don't always have access to it. Many emergency room doctors aren’t trained in administering buprenorphine, and those who are don't always prescribe it.

But that’s not the case with Lee Physician Group (LPG) Emergency Room doctors. Not all emergency room doctors are able to prescribe buprenorphine, either. LPG ER docs are among 1 percent of all emergency doctors nationally who can prescribe the drug, and 100 percent of LPG Emergency Physicians have been trained to use and prescribe buprenorphine. 

Buprenorphine treatment is among the most effective options for people with OUD, but it remains underused, says Dr. David Ondrako, an Emergency Medicine Physician with LPG and Medical Director of Inpatient Addiction Medicine Services.

“It’s so important for an ER doctor to have the ability to start this medication with patients who are in crisis from either opioid withdrawal or opioid overdose,” Dr. Ondrako says. “We can use buprenorphine to prevent future withdrawal and prevent cravings, beginning in the emergency room. Most importantly, its use can literally save lives and also increases the chance that patients will follow up with treatment and services at our substance use disorder clinic or with one of our community partners.”

 Dr. Ondrako says physicians who can prescribe buprenorphine in outpatient or emergency settings have acquired what’s called an “X-waiver” from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency. To get this waiver, qualified clinicians must notify a government agency (SAMHSA’s Center for Substance Abuse Treatment) of their intent to practice this form of medication-assisted treatment (MAT).

(Learn more about how Lee Health’s MAT program is saving lives.)

It’s all about providing the right care at the right time at the right place, Dr. Ondrako notes.

“Expanding access to opioid use disorder places LPG Emergency Room doctors ahead of the curve compared to many of our peers nationally. It’s vital to our community, too, that we’re proactively reducing the harm caused by substance use and substance use-related behavior. Our supportive approach to addiction treatment increases the likelihood for a successful treatment outcome for so many of the people we help.”

The compassionate experts with LPG Addiction Medicine will help you find ways to manage addiction.

To learn more, call 239-343-9190.