York Hospital. Credit: Ioanna Raptis | The York Weekly

YORK, Maine — In a new initiative to help people overcome opioid addiction, York Hospital is among the first hospitals in Maine to begin prescribing Suboxone — a medical treatment for opioid withdrawal symptoms — in its Emergency Department.

“We knew we simply had to do more to combat the most significant public health crisis of our generation,” said Dr. Robert Hulefeld, York Hospital’s leader of emergent care. “We thoughtfully planned for our first induction earlier this summer — rolling out educational trainings to help Emergency Department staff better understand opioid use disorder and destigmatize patient care.”

Meeting patients “where they are” after being admitted to the Emergency Department due to opioid misuse and initiating treatment with a first dose of Suboxone helps to stop withdrawal and relieve cravings so patients can have the best chance of successful treatment, Hulefeld said.

[After years of work, Bangor health center will offer same-day access to Suboxone]

This early intervention by the Emergency Department followed by rapid engagement with behavioral health professionals at the York Hospital Recovery Center is intended to expand access to treatment and improve patient outcomes.

Opioid addiction is a lifelong chronic illness, Hulefeld said. Just like diabetes or heart disease, managing a person’s addiction requires effective medical treatment along with lifestyle changes. Treatment of opioid addiction often requires medication to prevent cravings and sustain recovery.

Eric Haram, interim director of the York Hospital Recovery Center, led the Emergency Department trainings with Dr. Christine Munroe, medication-assisted treatment medical director. Together, Haram and Munroe, along with a number of addiction counselors and nurses, manage services rendered at the York Hospital Recovery Center while also training primary care physicians.

York Hospital developed this integrated “hub and spoke” model for addiction treatment in 2018. This treatment model links the specialty behavioral health program (hub) with primary care practices and, now, emergent care (spokes) to provide evidence-based integrated medication-assisted treatment options that best meet individualized patient needs.

“Dr. Hulefeld and Director Kathie Collamore have been great leaders and partners in implementing this critical effort. Dr. Munroe and I are inspired to be a part of this hospital-wide approach,” Haram said.

[What you need to know about Suboxone]

Hulefeld added that he was proud of the York Hospital Emergency Department team for embracing this new model and participating in the many multidisciplinary medical meetings that made the launch of this initiative possible.

“It is personal for all of us,” Hulefeld said. “One of the trainings started out with an exercise that asked people to raise their hand if they had been personally impacted by the opioid epidemic. When we looked around the room, we all had our hands raised.”

York Hospital expressed gratitude to the Maine Health Access Foundation, Maine Quality Counts and the state of Maine for providing grant funding to make the medical trainings possible.

The York Hospital Recovery Center offers outpatient treatment for patients with any substance misuse issues — including alcohol, opioids, marijuana and other substances — and for those affected by others’ use. If you or a loved one need help, call 207-351-2118.

If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, call 211 or visit www.211maine.org.

Related: Man talks about why Suboxone works for treating his opioid addiction

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