Addicts who want help getting clean now have access to a little more help from Conemaugh Memorial Medical Center’s emergency department. 

The hospital has begun offering emergency medication-assisted treatment as a bridge to additional treatment for patients struggling with addiction, the hospital announced. 

“We want to give patients with opioid use disorder every possible chance to recover, and we understand that addiction does not honor office hours or holidays,” said Dr. Jennifer Savino, emergency medicine chairwoman. 

Patients meeting specific criteria who arrive in the emergency room in a state of withdrawal may be offered up to three days’ dosages of Suboxone or Subutex as a bridge into treatment.

The patients will then be referred to trained staff from the Health Department-designated Center of Excellence at Alliance Medical Service, 1425 Scalp Ave. 

“The benefits are that the medicine helps with withdrawal symptoms, and they get access to treatment right away,” Dena Sobecky of the Center of Excellence said. “The earlier a patient can be engaged in treatment, the better the success rate with treatment.”

Medication-assisted treatment is part of the Warm Handoff collaboration between Conemaugh and the Center of Excellence. Patients treated for drug overdoses or other opioid abuse issues are offered help through the center’s connection with a network of providers, Sobecky said. 

“We are available 24 hours a day,” Sobecky said.“We will respond, do an assessment and make a referral to connect to the treatment level that they need. There are many treatment levels.”

Although Alliance operates a medication assisted clinic in Richland, the program is only one option offered to qualified opioid abusers, she said. 

“The Center of Excellence follows them through the treatment experience and then connects them to community services that help to reduce other stressors in their lives,” she said. 

Conemaugh’s emergency room is not  becoming a Suboxone clinic, Savino stressed. 

“The main thing is, they have to want to come off of whatever they are on,” she said. “This is not for the person who is already on Suboxone and just missed their appointment.

“We connect them with services and treat the withdrawal symptoms in the meantime.”

Overdose patients who were revived with Narcan are not eligible for the emergency Suboxone treatment because of drug interaction, Savino said. 

But overdose patients who want help are also included in the Warm Handoff program, she added. 

“The Warm Handoff we can do with anybody who wants rehabilitation,” Savino said. 

Ronna Yablonski, Cambria County Drug Coalition executive director, applauded the hospital’s new option. 

“The (medication-assisted treatment) program is a stepping-stone to help individuals overcome addiction,” she said in a press release. “By offering this intervention, Conemaugh Memorial can help them potentially change the course of their lives.” 

Randy Griffith is a multimedia reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. He can be reached at 532-5057. Follow him on Twitter @PhotoGriffer57.

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