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WA Health Authority launches addiction program

Columbia Basin Herald - 6/4/2024

Jun. 4—OLYMPIA — According to a Monday release from the Washington State Health Care Authority, the organization is launching a program that expands access to medications for opioid use disorder — also known as MOUD. The program, ScalaNW, equips emergency room clinicians with tools to treat patients for opioid use disorder, or OUD, and connect them to community-based care.

"The emergency department is a critical place to deliver medications for opioid use disorder since it can be the first and sometimes the only place where people with OUD connect with medical care," said HCA's state Medicaid director, Charissa Fotinos. "Our goal is to give ER clinicians the support they need to administer lifesaving medication for patients in need of care, and ScalaNW is a tool that helps us meet that goal."

According to the announcement, ScalaNW will provide all Washington hospitals with 24/7 clinical consultation and practice guidelines along with educational resources for both patients and providers. Hospitals that join the ScalaNW network will also receive technical assistance with policies, billing and implementation, support for staff education and 24/7 scheduling for follow-up appointments.

Opioid use has accelerated dramatically in recent years in Washington, according to the announcement. Between 2019 and 2021, the number of Washingtonians who died of opioid drug overdoses doubled.

"MOUD, like methadone and buprenorphine, are powerful tools in combatting opioid-related deaths, with studies showing these medications can cut death rates in half," the statement said. "MOUD use increases retention in treatment, decreases opioid use and decreases health care system costs, all without causing harm to patients. Still, less than 9 percent of overdose-related emergency room visits result in a prescription for MOUD."

Chris Buresh, assistant program director at the University of Washington Emergency Medicine Residency Program and a practicing physician at UW Harborview Medical Center commented on the new program.

"ScalaNW delivers what ER clinicians need to confidently assess and treat people with OUD: Evidence-backed, accessible information to quickly guide treatment," he said. "I'm confident that the tools offered through ScalaNW will help get these important medications to those who need them."

Buresh was part of a partnership that developed the medical protocols for ScalaNW, which included HCA, UW Department of Emergency Medicine, UW Addictions, Drug and Alcohol Institute, and UW Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences PCL.

For more information, visit www.scalanw.org.

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