MedWatch Today: Bridge Program aims to help patients addicted to opioids


The opioid epidemic continues to be an issue in our country and here in Fresno County. But there is a new program offered at Community Regional Medical Center that can help those addicted to opioid drugs.

Instead of stabilizing a patient who may be suffering from an overdose or withdrawal in the emergency room and referring them to a rehabilitation facility, physicians can now treat an addicted patient immediately when they come into the emergency department, getting them help fast and efficiently.

Dr. Rais Vohra’s said it is his mission to help prevent opioid overdose and addiction.

“We have a huge problem with substance use throughout the country, throughout our state, and our region is not spared,” said Dr. Vohra.

Dr. Vohra works in the emergency department at Community Regional. He explains the hospital’s new initiative to help combat opioid addiction.

He stated, “Community Regional Medical Center is the only hospital in Fresno County that has been designated as a Bridge Star Site, and as a Star Site what that means is that the whole hospital is committed to helping patients with opioid use disorder.”

The bridge program helps patients with opioid addiction get immediate access through the emergency department that is open 24/7, so day or night, when the patient needs it, they can come to Community Regional and quickly be seen. They will be offered a dose of medication, like Buprenorphine, to ease severe symptoms of withdrawal.

“Whenever I give it to my patients, they are instantly relieved. They come in miserable, they’re in a crisis state, they’re in withdrawal, and they’re telling me, ‘You know, if I don’t get something, I’m gonna go out and use, and I’m really afraid I’m gonna do something bad for my body.'”

A female patient came into Community Regional in June. She was desperate and wanted help. She had been addicted to Norco for more than five years. She wanted to stay anonymous for our interview.

She described, “I started taking pills after I had my son. Ever since then, I started taking one, and it was just like regularly I was just taking them like when I needed them and then eventually I had to take more and I took more.”

She said she could not live without Norco.

“I wasn’t working. I was just staying at home at that time, dealing with all the, like you know, how to clean, how to cook, and then just like, my son, I had to take him to like, take him to school. I would have to get up and I couldn’t do it. I mean, if I had the pills, I could do it,” the patient cried.

The patient said she hit a low this year when she ran out of pills and a friend suggested she take a stronger drug. She said no, and the pain from the withdrawals began.

The patient said, “When I went into the emergency room, when they gave me that one pill, it was, that was the best thing. I felt like relief!”

She was seen right away at Community Regional and received a dose of Buprenorphine.

Dr. Vohra said, “So what this medication is doing is saying, you know what, if you’re having a problem with substance use with opioid use disorder it’s called and you’re starting to show signs of withdrawal, then don’t go out and seek pain killers, and definitely don’t go out and shoot up or use Fentanyl. The much safer thing that you can do is to start this new medication called Buprenorphine. Buprenorphine takes away all of those cravings, but you can’t overdose on it.”

Studies show that patients given this option of medication designed for addiction treatment are more likely to remain in care than those who are given rehab referral information alone.

“Now we can give them a second chance and say, you know what, let’s get you on the road to recovery,” stated Dr. Vohra.

The female patient now receives a dose of Buprenorphine every day, and it helps her stay clean and motivated to live a healthier life.

She ended, “It saved me because I’d probably be dead somewhere, you know, by an overdose or something. Maybe I would have did something stronger, you know?”

There are currently 50 health facilities in California participating in the Bridge Program.

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