The Hamilton County Coalition and Erlanger Health System are working together to fight the opioid crisis by providing needed resources to at-risk patients.
Patients at Erlanger Baroness Emergency Department who meet certain clinical criteria and present with opioid-related complaints — such as an overdose — will be offered a free naloxone (Narcan) kit with two doses of naloxone while supplies are available. Naloxone is the opioid-reversal medication commonly used by emergency personnel and pre-hospital care providers. Naloxone can cost between $30 and $150 from a pharmacy, which can be unattainable for many who suffer from opioid addiction, officials said.
In addition to these kits, patients will be referred to a Tennessee recovery navigator.
The recovery navigator is a case manager whose goal is to help place patients into treatment programs. Within days of discharge, the recovery navigator will contact the patient and offer gateways into appropriate addiction treatment programs. One such program is the Hamilton County Coalition’s Nu-Start program, a grant-funded program providing access to stabilization and support services including counseling, transportation services and inpatient and outpatient care.
Dr. Rebecca Martin, emergency medicine fellow at Erlanger; Dr. Jessica Whittle, emergency medicine physician at Erlanger; and Dr. Jenny Holcomb, assistant professor for the School of Nursing at the University of Tennessee Chattanooga, spearheaded efforts behind this collaboration.
“Working with the Hamilton County Coalition and Tennessee’s available resources, we have transformed the management of patients who are suffering from opioid use disorder — specifically their discharge planning,” Dr. Martin said. “Now, patients who are at-risk for an opioid overdose can walk out of the Emergency Department with this lifesaving drug [Narcan] in hand. Only by expanding access to Narcan and treatment programs will we be able to prevent deaths and empower struggling members of our community to overcome addiction.”
The opioid crisis has gained national attention in recent years, with death tolls rising to almost 400,000 people dying from an opioid related drug overdose since 1999. In 2017, the number of opioid related drug deaths was six times higher than in 1999, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
The Hamilton County Coalition offers naloxone training to the public. Dates and locations can be found at their web site, https://www.hccoalition.org/save-a-life-training-events