‘Without treatment, odds are set up against them’— program aims to get more people into addiction recovery

Virginia continues to see high numbers of people who are dying as a result of drug overdoses, but treatment options for those seeking help are in short supply in many communities. Some health workers are working to get more patients in emergency rooms into addiction treatment.

Over a hundred scientific studies have shown that patients who are prescribed Buprenorphine, also known as Suboxone, are more likely to stay on a path to recovery, when combined with counseling and behavioral therapies.

“It stabilizes people, helps them to function, helps them to move forward in their life,” said Dr. David Hartman is a psychiatrist with Carilion, where doctors have been working on an initiative called the Bridge to Treatment Program, which helps get people into treatment after they see an emergency room physician.

“This truly is a medical illness that has distorted their brain pathways,” said Dr. Annie Ikes, who works as an emergency room doctor at the Carilion Memorial Hospital in Roanoke.

“And without treatment, they have a really hard time of recovering, and a lot of odds are set up against them,” Ikes said.

April 2021, the Biden administrated began relaxing requirements for physicians to be able to prescribe Suboxone.

“I’ve really found a change and a shift in our emergency room. Patients that come to the emergency department usually come in withdrawal, and they’re sick and they’re requesting help. And it’s so different and amazing now that we can actually give them help and Suboxone right there in the emergency room department and relieve their withdrawal symptoms.”

The Bridge to Treatment program also matches patients with peer support specialists, which evidence shows is twice as likely to help someone stay in recovery.

If you’d like to learn about recovery services in your area, contact your local CSB. You can also call the free and confidential treatment referral hotline (1-800-662-HELP) or visit findtreatment.gov.

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