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Making Medication-Assisted Treatment Work

Buffalo Program Delivers Prompt Emergency Response Coupled With Accessible Follow-up Care

Emergency room clinicians at the Jacobs School of Medicine, University of Buffalo, are working to deploy an innovative approach to delivering medication-assisted treatment for patients with opioid use disorder. The Buffalo Medication Assisted Treatment & Emergency Referrals (MATTERS) program was developed in response to the need in western New York State for a more streamlined and cost-effective system for meeting the acute needs of patients in opioid withdrawal and transitioning them to medication-assisted treatment to continue their recovery. Buffalo MATTERS was initially developed as a pilot project of the John R. Oishei Foundation, and has been awarded $200,000 from BlueCross BlueShield of Western New York to fund expansion into 8 counties in the region. Of the need for the program, founder Joshua Lynch, DO, clinical assistant professor of emergency medicine in the Jacobs School, remarked, “Emergency departments are the safety net for the medical system, so they are a critical point of entry for these patients. When patients come to us in withdrawal, we need to be able to help control their symptoms and quickly transition them to community clinics. We knew we weren’t doing a great job on either one, but there weren’t many good alternatives out there.”

Dr. Lynch and colleagues began in 2015 with an effort to expand the force of providers trained to administer buprenorphine in the emergency room. They coupled this with an outreach to area clinics to expand their availability of medication assisted treatment for referred patients. Although only 3 clinics were participants at the outset, the Buffalo area now has 27 clinics able to absorb 64 opioid use disorder patients per week within 48 hours of discharge from the ED. Dr. Lynch commented, “The patient in withdrawal who drives to the emergency room because they know they need help is typically looking for a way to get better. When you hand them a list of 64 clinic appointments with 27 different locations they can choose from, they get interested.”

Read about the innovative treatment approach.

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