Area ER doctors take extra steps to help addicted patients


Video shot and edited by Danylo Paszkowsky, News 4 Photojournalist

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB)-Western New York’s emergency departments have never been busier.

“We’re seeing a large number of people coming in with Opioid related problems. Most being overdose that they present to the emergency department,” explained the Chairman of Emergency Medicine at UB, Dr. Robert McCormack.

Addiction isn’t something you can treat once; patients require a lot of community support after that initial visit.

Dr. Joshua Lynch of UBMD and Dr. Paul Updike of Catholic Health provided specialized training to a group of about 20 ER doctors Wednesday night.

“Our goal is to rapidly identify these patients, get them started on medication, get them hooked up with a treatment center in a very short period of time so they can get on with their life and start tackling the addiction rather than having so many obstacles to get over,” Dr. Lynch said.

And that means medication-assisted treatment.

Patients battling Opioid addiction are proven to have better outcomes when their recovery includes medicates like Buprenorphine, often called Suboxone, Lynch said; in order to prescribe it legally, providers must undergo special training.

The training itself is pretty standard, but it’s generally given to internal medicine doctors or addiction specialists.

Emergency rooms aren’t the place many would think of to get a prescription for Suboxone, but Dr. Updike and Dr. Lynch are seeing, as other area doctors are, that ERs are where patients addicted to Opioids are going, and in record numbers.

Wednesday’s training went over everything from how to identify signs that a patient could benefit from Buprenorphine, to a patient’s options after they leave the ER.

Evergreen Health, Horizons, and St. Vincent’s Medical Center were also present Wednesday; they’ve agreed to work together to provide the much needed follow-up care to patients after they’re first prescribed Buprenorphine for their addiction.

Area health professionals have been talking about ERs providing medicine like Suboxone a lot this year, but nothing has been formally decided.

“That’s really what the whole driving force of this particular training is. That thought, that movement has gained a lot of steam,” said Dr. Updike, who’s the Medical Director for Substance Abuse Services with the Catholic Health system.

“There is a significant number of emergency room providers that are sort of ready now to do that,” he continued.

No decision has been made on when or where this could start, but many ER doctors from around western New York want to be ready.

Wednesday’s training was the first of its kind specifically for a group of ER health care providers. Dr. Lynch hopes as the idea of prescribing Suboxone in emergency departments grows, this sort of training will be given to ER doctors earlier on in their careers.

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