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University Hospital offers program for opioid addiction

Program may prevent repeat overdoses

Opioid addiction program in Columbia

COLUMBIA, Mo. - University Hospital has rolled out a program that offers long-term treatment for people who are addicted to opioids.

Jonathan Heidt, the medical director of the emergency department of University Hospital, said the program offers treatment options to patients admitted to the emergency room for an overdose.

"This program is the first opportunity as an emergency physician that I have had to really help patients who come in with these conditions," Heidt said.

In typical emergency room practice, he said overdose patients are treated in the hospital and then released.

"We eventually discharge them from the ER knowing very well that they will likely come back for the same condition," he said.

The program, Engaging Patients in Care Coordinating, provides medication-assisted therapy while a patient is in the emergency room to help with withdrawal symptoms, he said.

Next, the patient is given a peer counselor and admitted to a treatment center within 72 hours of getting discharged from the hospital. 

The program began in St. Louis in 2016 and went live in the Central Region, which includes University Hospital, Women's and Children's Hospital and Boone Hospital Center, in March 2019. 

About 25% of referred participants self-reported homelessness and about 55% reported being uninsured, according to findings in the EPICC program in St. Louis measured from December 2016 through February 2019.

St. Louis has enrolled hundreds of participants and had a higher retention rate than anticipated, he said. 

The program is funded through local, state and federal funding which means it's free to participants.

The Department of Mental Health, Missouri Hospital Association and Behavioral Health Networks of Greater St. Louis have worked together to make the program possible.

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