St. Louis opioid treatment program to expand statewide

COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — A St. Louis-area pilot program that’s treated more than 2,000 opioid overdose victims is expanding statewide.

Missouri health officials are looking to implement Engaging Patients in Care Coordination, or EPICC, across the state within a year. The program treats overdose victims at emergency rooms with buprenorphine, a medication that mimics opioids without the resulting high and helps with withdrawal symptoms. It also offers a peer counselor to help individuals recover from addiction.

The program, which is funded by federal State Targeted Response to the Opioid Crisis grants, will be available in Boone County after Sept. 1, the Columbia Daily Tribune reported.

Boone Hospital Center and University of Missouri Health Care will join Phoenix Health Programs, Pathways Community Health and Burrell Behavioral Health to provide the treatment.

“We want to be out in every rural community and understanding how to put this program together in every community across Missouri,” said Leslie Porth of the Missouri Hospital Association.

About 70 percent of patients under the St. Louis pilot program were in treatment six months after visiting the hospital, said Porth.

“That is 2,000 lives potentially saved in our state in one year,” Porth said.

Less than 10 percent of patients had sought treatment six months after the previous protocol, which sent patients home after treating them with opioid-overdose antidote naloxone, according to Porth.

“Historically, we did not have any options for patients beyond helping with their current crisis and hoping that they get access to resources,” said Jonathan Heidt, emergency medicine director for University of Missouri’s health system.

Republican Rep. Vicky Hartzler of Harrisonville said, “I am very encouraged that the legislation we passed in Washington, D.C., that would put more funding for going after the opioid crisis is actually getting here to our community and helping to save lives.”

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