California Takes Decisive Action to Save Lives with Groundbreaking Treatment for Opioid Addiction

Oakland, CA, August 18, 2020 . . . $20 million in funding will be awarded to two-thirds (212) of the hospitals in California to treat people with opioid and other substance use disorders, the California Department of Health Care Services (DHCS) announced. 

The Behavioral Health Pilot Project (BHPP) is based on the successful CA Bridge program that combines Medication for Addiction Treatment (MAT) in hospital emergency departments with support from a substance use counselor to help people get into ongoing substance use treatment.  

“People seeking help with their drug use should be able to turn to their local hospital and expect to be treated like any other patient with a life-threatening illness,” says Serena Clayton, Program Director of CA Bridge. 

The state’s funding comes at a critical time as overdose deaths are drastically rising, traditional forms of drug treatment are complicated by the COVID-19 pandemic, and many states are cutting back on drug treatment services. By contrast, with this new funding, California will be able to make treatment available to people on a massive scale.  

The state’s move towards setting a new standard of care for substance use is the culmination of the pioneering work of CA Bridge, a program of the Public Health Institute. It puts California at the forefront of a growing movement to rethink how drug use is treated across health systems and in society at large. 

“This funding will revolutionize how substance use is addressed in hospitals by shifting the attitudes of providers, many of whom are reluctant to treat people who use drugs. We are getting closer to the day when every Emergency Department treats substance use disorder because it’s the most equitable way to improve access to care” says Dr. Aimee Moulin, Professor of Emergency Medicine at UC Davis Medical Center.

DHCS will work with the CA Bridge Program to support all 212 BHPP grantees with training, tools, resources, educational materials and assistance with data collection.

“We’re pleased that DHCS has seen how powerful the CA Bridge program can be in equipping busy Emergency Departments to provide this life saving treatment,” says Dr. Moulin. “This is an opportunity to demonstrate to the entire nation how opening up access to treatment can transform the lives of people suffering from addiction.”

The Budget Act of 2019 appropriated $20 million in General Funds to establish the BHPP but funding was delayed due to COVID to expand the CA Bridge model. As it became clear that overdose deaths were increasing at an alarming rate, the Budget Act of 2020 re-appropriated funding for the project.  Awarded hospitals will receive funding in September 2020, and patients across the state should begin receiving treatment soon after.

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