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Hospital Implements Innovative Strategies to Combat Opioid Crisis, Recognized for Successful Programs

Mee Memorial Emergency Department’s buprenorphine, Narcan and Substance Use Navigator (SUN) programs were key initiatives that were recognized as innovative strategies to combat the opioid crisis. The hospital’s SUN program is supported through a grant from PHI’s CA Bridge program.

  • Salinas Valley Tribune
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“Addiction to opioids, including prescription pain relievers, heroin and synthetic opioids such as fentanyl, is a serious national crisis — California reported more than 7,100 opioid overdose deaths in 2021, including nearly 4,000 deaths from fentanyl.

Cal Hospital Compare has published for the first time the Opioid Care Honor Roll, and Mee Memorial Healthcare System has been recognized out of 109 participating hospitals with the highest rating of “Superior Performance.”

Hospitals achieving “Superior Performance” have implemented advanced, innovative opioid stewardship strategies across multiple service lines, consistently achieving the highest level of performance.

Mee Memorial’s Emergency Department (ED) programs of ER buprenorphine, nasal Narcan and the Substance Use Navigator program were key initiatives in receiving the highest rating. Buprenorphine is a promising medication that can treat opiate withdrawal and prevent overdose and accidental death in the future.

“Buprenorphine/Suboxone is an important tool in the fight against opioid addiction and accidental overdose in the community. It is important for the Emergency Department to take a leading role by both providing appropriate medical care but also assisting affected patients with long-term community resources,” said Dr. Noah Hawthorne, medical director of Mee’s ED. “We know that of patients who present to the ED with an opioid overdose and later died, 22% died within the first two days. If a patient can stay within a medication assisted treatment (MAT) program, their risk of death drops 10 times. When a patient is started in the ER on MAT, 78% stay in treatment at six months compared to just 37% who were not started in the ER.”

Patients in acute withdrawal can present at the emergency room and be stabilized for their symptoms and then connected to outpatient resources. Mee Memorial has an addiction medicine and pain clinic run by Dr. Salar Deldar, who can provide outpatient support and follow up prescriptions to these patients as needed.

“We coordinate with Sun Street, which is a local addiction medicine treatment center offering both inpatient and outpatient services here in King City, and other clinics in Salinas and San Luis Obispo as well,” Hawthorne said.

Mee Memorial’s Substance Use Navigator (SUN) program was launched in 2023.

“The SUN program is a part-time remote position supported by a grant from the CA Bridge Program,” Hawthorne said. “SUN helps provide the longitudinal support that is so important in ensuring patients make it to treatment and stay in treatment.”

Mee Memorial ED also partners with the State of California to offer a free nasal Narcan distribution program, where any high-risk patient can take home nasal Narcan for overdose reversal for themselves or friends and family.

Mee Memorial Healthcare System is the primary healthcare organization serving the rural communities of southern Monterey County. Overall, its healthcare professionals serve a population of nearly 80,000 within an area spanning over 55 miles between the agricultural communities of Soledad and Bradley.

The Mee network includes a hospital in King City with emergency services, and a number of comprehensive outpatient clinics, an occupational health services clinic and the Albert and Donna Oliveira Clinic, a full-service, primary care facility in Greenfield.”

Originally published by Salinas Valley Tribune

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