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Health & Wellness

Test program connects on-scene first responders to overdose referral network

An ambulance parked at a hospital

Emergency Room doctors affiliated with UBMD have come up with a cyber-way to speed up access to care for people with substance abuse problems.

New York MATTERS covers most of the state and is moving to cover the rest and then move across state lines to apply its lessons and technology. That's what it does, uses tech to connect someone to an outpatient treatment program right there and then, in an ER or living room, where first responders have just found someone saved from the brink of death.

A map of the local New York MATTERS network.
A map of the local New York MATTERS network.

"The main reason why police, fire, EMS and first responders in general get frustrated with this disease process is that we don't have a ton to offer," said Dr. Joshua Lynch, associate professor of Emergency Medicine at the University at Buffalo. "But, suddenly, you put a very powerful referral network into the hands of a police officer or an EMS provider. It's actually very empowering. Now they are able to do something for the patient and it decreases the chance that they are going to get called back again for a similar problem."

Lynch said New York MATTERS is experimenting with issuing iPads with the group's software to first responders to connect any individual who has just scraped past death with patient care...then and there. The program also offers vouchers for medication to deal with opioids, as well as for transportation to get to that initial clinic, on the spot.

"If an individual happens to overdose in Syracuse but they actually live in Buffalo, they can use our electronic platform to pick an appointment, usually the next day, in Buffalo while they are sitting in an ER in Syracuse," said Dr. Joshua Lynch. "So I think that is what really also adds value to the program is that it's truly statewide and we are looking to expand to other states as well."

Lynch said about the only problem so far is competing hospital groups.

"The patients get to pick where they follow up," Lynch said. "So sometimes the hospital might be a little hesitant to come on board. because the patient might choose to follow up at the hospital's competitor's clinic down the street. But we see the importance, that if a patient wants to follow up at a clinic across the street from their house, the patient doesn't really care what hospital organization that clinic is affiliated with."

Right now, New York MATTERS works with more than 100 clinics, 1,000 pharmacies and more than 40 hospitals across the state.