New UK clinic provides specialized treatment for opioid abuse

Many people with opioid-use disorder (OUD) come in contact with the healthcare system for issues related to substance use. Often, people present to the emergency room with an opioid overdose or infections from drug injections. These infections can require lengthy hospitalization and surgical intervention.

When patients receive treatment for medical complications related to OUD and injection drug use, they may not receive treatment for the underlying substance-use disorder. By failing to address the underlying cause of the medical complications, patients remain vulnerable to reinfection, readmission or even death.

When the state began looking for ideas to address the opioid epidemic in Kentucky, three experts from UK – Drs. Sharon Walsh, Michelle Lofwall and Laura Fanucchi – submitted a plan to give patients at the hospital better access to treatment specifically for OUD.

Building a partnership to provide strong care

Through the new First Bridge Clinic, located at the UK Center on Drug and Alcohol Research, Walsh, Lofwall and Fanucchi are creating a new setting where patients can receive evidence-based care for OUD. Patients may receive FDA-approved medications for OUD, counseling services, and monitoring aimed to promote remission and recovery.

In partnership with the emergency departments at UK HealthCare and with financial support from the state through the CURES Act, Walsh, Lofwall and Fanucchi are creating a clinical setting where providers in the emergency department can refer patients to receive transitional care for OUD.

“We’re developing a new clinic, and it’s going to partner closely with the ED so when patients are referred they can receive care rapidly and within the same healthcare system with the aid of peer support,” Walsh said.

Collaborating for greater access across the Commonwealth

Additionally, Walsh, Lofwall and Fanucchi will share information with facilitators from the two other sites in the state also awarded funding to create similar clinics.

“The need for this clinic is clear,” Lofwall said. “If the underlying addiction isn’t treated, the person goes back to active addiction and is at very high risk for death and/or reinfection requiring another hospitalization with complicated medical and surgical treatments.”

In creating this new multidisciplinary service, the UK team is hoping to positively impact the opioid epidemic by expanding and improving access to recovery services for patients.


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