ABC’s of your Health: More resources for opioid addiction in the Central Valley

A meth overdose alert from the Drug Overdose Prevention and Education Project in the Bay Area.
A meth overdose alert from the Drug Overdose Prevention and Education Project in the Bay Area. Kaiser Health News/TNS

Thanks to a $205,000 grant awarded to Adventist Health Reedley hospital, more resources for opioid addiction in the Central Valley will be available for those in need.

The grant, which will fund prevention, treatment and recovery services, was awarded by The Center at Sierra Health Foundation through the Medicated Assisted Treatment (MAT) Access Points Project, according to Gabriela Ornelas, manager communication for Adventist Health Reedley and Selma.

The Medicated-assisted treatment is the use of FDA-approved medications, in combination with counseling and behavioral therapies, to provide a “whole-patient” approach to the treatment of substance use disorders.

“We are thrilled to receive this generous grant,” said Dr. John Zweifler, Adventist Health medical director of clinical integration and principal investigator of the grant in a statement. “This is a big step forward in providing competent and compassionate services that will help our patients and communities to heal.”

Every day, more than 130 people in the United States die after overdosing on opioids, including prescription opioids, heroin and illicitly manufactured fentanyl - a powerful synthetic opioid, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The addiction also is known to bring instability and chaos to the entire family.

The grant’s goal is to ensure that this treatment supports positive outcomes, safe care transitions and long-term recovery for those with opioid and other substance use disorders.

“It’s what our mission to live God’s love calls us to do,” said Zweifler.

According to Ornelas, the grant will enable Adventist Health Reedley to provide an innovative program featuring mobile telehealth services to connect patients to emergency departments in Reedley and

Selma, and Adventist Health clinics in Sanger and Fowler.

Patients will receive care from Dr. Marc Lasher, an experienced addiction medicine specialist, who also will offer face-to-face visits and after-hour telehealth consultations. Additionally, the grant will enable Lasher to train future generations of family medicine residents in medication-assisted therapy for opioid use disorder.

The program in Reedley will allow Adventist Health to expand its care for those experiencing substance use disorders and addiction.

Similar services were launched at Adventist Health Hanford earlier this year.

Adventist Health Hanford applied for and received a $175,000 grant from the California Bridge Program to provide access to around-the-clock treatment for substance use disorders and to help combat opioid usage in Kings County and surrounding areas.

Treatment includes administering a dose of the medication buprenorphine to ease severe symptoms of withdrawal before patients leave the emergency department. This support bridges the patient to Adventist Health’s medical offices for follow-up care. Studies show that patients who receive the option of addiction treatment medication are more likely to remain in care than those who are simply referred to an addiction treatment program on their own.

“This grant will establish a seamless process for providing patients with opioid use disorder, who want to stop using opioids or heroin, the treatment and support they need,” said Zweifler, who is also the director of graduate medical education for Adventist Health services in the Central Valley.

“By suppressing withdrawal long enough to create a bridge for patients to enter and remain in treatment, physicians can save lives,” says Dr. Andrew Herring, director of Emergency Department Services for the Bridge program. “We know this model works, and now we are bringing it to hospitals and emergency rooms all across the state that are anxious for real solutions to address the enormous pain and suffering they see every day caused by the opioid epidemic.”

“Having such a well-established process will help eliminate the barriers we face in getting people facing addiction into treatment, so they can move forward with their lives,” said Dr. Marc Lasher, addiction medicine specialist. “Instead of referring people to a treatment program, we’re treating them right there in the emergency room and scheduling them for follow-up care.”

María G. Ortiz-Briones: 559-441-6782, @TuValleTuSalud