Mid Coast Hospital in Brunswick is the first hospital in the state to prescribe suboxone treatment in the emergency department, a news release announced last week.

The program, the first of its kind in Maine, is called ED/ARC (Addiction Resource Center) Enhanced Referrals for Suboxone and Alcohol.

“Combined substance abuse and mental health treatment with FDA-approved medication for opioid dependence has shown a significant increase in patient access and improved outcomes,” said Leah Bauer, a physician in the Mid Coast Hospital Addiction Resource Center. “Medications stop withdrawal and relieve cravings so patients can have the best chance of engaging in successful treatment.”

In the program, emergency department doctors use newly developed treatment pathways to treat low-risk alcohol withdrawal, opioid withdrawal and a suboxone pathway to begin patients on suboxone while still in the emergency room. The program engages the emergency department’s Behavioral Health Crisis Team and provides a screening tool for physicians.

The hospital’s enhanced referrals program has created a process to identify patients who are receptive to treatment, initiate the treatment process and refer them to the new ARC program for ongoing comprehensive treatment, the news release said. Most patients leave the emergency room with an appointment at the ARC on the next business day,

“The model is based on taking advantage of the opportunity to intervene that an ED physician has when a patient with addiction presents,” said Ranjiv Advani, an emergency department doctor at Mid Coast Hospital. “If that opportunity is not seized at that moment, it may not present again.”

In 2017, there were 418 drug-induced deaths in Maine, up 11 percent from the year before. Mid Coast Hospital is the only hospital in the state with emergency room physicians providing suboxone treatment to those presenting signs of opioid dependence.

“As we continue to see an increase in patients with addiction concerns, clinicians on the front lines now have the tools to provide a solution at a time when we can truly make a difference,” Advani said. “The Midcoast region is fortunate to have these resources in our community.”