Contact: Jenifer Harris
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ROCKPORT, July 8, 2020 - As the opioid crisis continues to cut across our coastal communities, Pen Bay Medical Center (PBMC), in partnership with Maine Behavioral Healthcare, has developed a program to provide immediate relief to those suffering opiate withdrawal symptoms - and get them on a path of long-term recovery.
Called Rapid Induction, the program provides a single dose of Buprenorphine, also known as Suboxone, to patients who come to the Emergency Department with withdrawal symptoms. The patient is then referred to Maine Behavioral Healthcare in Rockland. Its Integrated Medication Assisted Treatment (IMAT) program combines medication to reduce the cravings and talk therapy.
The goal is for the patient to be seen by a physician who provides IMAT within 24 hours while there is still momentum toward recovery, said Elizabeth Lawrence, MD, medical director and chairperson for the Department of Emergency Medicine at PBMC. Dr. Lawrence oversees the Rapid Induction program.
"It's critical for patients to participate in IMAT as soon as possible," Dr. Lawrence said. "Studies show that combining medication with group and individualized therapy works better, with fewer relapses and overdoses, than therapy alone to treat opioid use disorder."
Although still being tallied, data collected by the State of Maine points to a 7 percent increase in overdose deaths in 2019. Of the 380 overdose deaths in 2019, nearly 89 percent were accidental.
Dr. Lawrence said both the Emergency Department visit and the IMAT appointment are designed to eliminate the stigma sometimes associated with opioid use disorder.
To take advantage of the Rapid Induction program, a patient should come to the Emergency Department at PBMC and speak with the person at the registration window. You will be brought into an exam room where you will be screened to determine if you are a candidate for Buprenorphine. This involves a urine test to make sure there are no opioids in your system and a series of questions that help determine how much Buprenorphine to administer.
"We test a patient's urine to avoid complications when we administer Buprenorphine," Dr. Lawrence said. "Usually, Buprenorphine reduces or eliminates withdrawal symptoms. But if the patient has opioids in their system, Buprenorphine can actually make withdrawal symptoms far worse."
With Buprenorphine administered and the cravings tamped down, patients are then counseled on the benefits of the IMAT program. With the patient's consent, the Emergency Department will submit a referral and a representative from the IMAT program will reach out to make an appointment.
"We want to make sure the patient can be seen by the IMAT team the very next day," Dr. Lawrence said. "If the patient comes into the Emergency Department on a weekend, we will have them come back to the Emergency Department for a second dose of Buprenorphine if necessary to get them through until their appointment.
"These patients don't need inpatient hospitalization, and they don't need to be in a psychiatric unit," Dr. Lawrence said. "They need relief from the cravings so they can focus on therapy and rebuilding their lives."
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If you or someone you love is suffering from opioid withdrawal, go to the PBMC Emergency Department and tell the registrar that you want to access the Rapid Induction program. The doctors there can provide immediate relief and help you take the first steps toward recovery in a compassionate, non-judgmental setting. For more information, call 301-8333.
About Pen Bay Medical Center
Pen Bay Medical Center is part of MaineHealth, a not-for-profit integrated health system consisting of eight local hospital systems, a comprehensive behavioral healthcare network, diagnostic services, home health agencies, and more than 1,600 employed and independent physicians working together through an Accountable Care Organization. With more than 19,000 employees, MaineHealth is the largest health system in northern New England and provides preventive care, diagnosis and treatment to 1.1 million residents in Maine and New Hampshire. For more information, please visit pbmc.org.