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B.C. Interior emergency departments gain more opioid treatment options

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Another opioid use disorder medication, known as Suboxone, has been made widely available to Interior Health emergency departments.

Interior Health officials said Emergency Services and Mental Health and Substance Use networks worked together in June 2021 to connect people experiencing opioid use disorder with Suboxone in emergency departments.

Suboxone is used as an opioid agonist treatment medication for opioid use disorder.

IH officials said the project includes Suboxone “to-go packs” for patients to use at home and a new urgent referral process to connect people to ongoing opioid agonist treatment options in the community.

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“The toxic drug crisis continues to impact patients, families, and communities. We can be part of the solution to this ongoing public health emergency and hopefully prevent lives from being lost by providing OAT in the ED,” said Heather Hair, Interior Health emergency services network director. “Frontline health-care workers in emergency departments often see first-hand the impacts of addiction and toxic drug deaths. We are having conversations and building relationships with people who often have experienced stigma, and hopefully helping keep them from harm.”

Suboxone use in emergency departments has been introduced to 20 hospitals across the Interior Health region.

The program will be introduced to the Kootenay Boundary region this month.

Interior Health officials said feedback from clinicians and patients has been positive.

“The clients I have seen as a Nurse Prescriber who have succeeded in staying on Suboxone or transitioned to the long-acting injectable are doing very well,” said Nurse Prescriber Laura Sherret, who works in Cranbrook. “They are reconnected to families, have jobs, and are managing life’s challenges in positive ways. Others have gone on to other OAT therapies that suit them better so they, too, can move forward. We continue to build relationships and trust with people and support them in their choices.”

“It is now considered the gold standard of care, and that care is being provided right here in the emergency department at East Kootenay Regional Hospital,” said Sherret.

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