A Hillcrest hospital will receive a quarter-of-a-million-dollar grant for opioid addiction treatment thanks to a statewide program aimed at reducing the drug’s overuse and dependence.
The California Bridge Program awarded Scripps Mercy Hospital San Diego $260,000 to help expand in- and outpatient care for opioid use disorder, according to Scripps Mercy.
“This program will treat a hospital visit as a critical window for starting opioid addiction treatment,” said Valerie Norton, M.D., emergency medicine physician and physician operations executive at Scripps Mercy.
The hundreds of thousands of dollars will help the Hillcrest center in two ways, Scripps Mercy said.
First, emergency room doctors will be trained in how to administer specific medication to ease any severe symptoms of withdrawals in patients.
Doctors may also prescribe medication as a temporary “bridge” for patients waiting for ongoing care.
“By suppressing withdrawal long enough to create a bridge for patients to enter and remain in treatment, physicians can save lives,” said Andrew Herring, M.D., director of emergency department services for the California Bridge Program. “We know this model works and now we are bringing it to hospitals across the state.”
Second, counseling support will be added to Scripps Mercy’s emergency department. Before patients are discharged, they can be connected with services at Family Health Centers of San Diego. The hospital will also provide follow-up opportunities for patients.
These two plans will work in tandem with a separate program launched by Scripps Mercy back in 2017.
The Opioid Stewardship Program was created to educate patients about the risks of opioids and outline alternative medications.
The initiative resulted in a 25 percent reduction in the number of opioid pills prescribed at Scripps hospital in 2018.
Drug take-back kiosks were also created to help patients dispose of unused, unneeded, or outdated medication.
The California Bridge Program is managed by the Public Health Institute based in Oakland, California. The initiative is funded through the California Department of Health Care Services and Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
Scripps Mercy treats more than 750,000 patients every year. It was one of 31 health facilities to be awarded grant funds.
The announcement came one week after Scripps Health announced plans for a new, standalone behavioral health facility in Chula Vista.