Calif. county says new opioid overdose tracking program shows progress

Of the nine overdoses paramedics responded to since the tracking began, health officials have reached three people—and gotten one into a sober living program


By Catherine Ho
San Francisco Chronicle

MARIN COUNTY, Calif. — Since launching an experimental tracking system last month to try to get people who've overdosed on opioids into treatment programs, Marin County public health officials say they are making some progress.

Of the nine overdoses paramedics responded to since the tracking began, health officials have reached three people—and gotten one into a sober living program. That person has started buprenorphine, a medication-assisted treatment that is meant to be a long-term, doctor-supervised therapy for opioid use disorder.

Since launching an experimental tracking system last month to try to get people who've overdosed on opioids into treatment programs, Marin County public health officials say they are making some progress. (Photo/AP)
Since launching an experimental tracking system last month to try to get people who've overdosed on opioids into treatment programs, Marin County public health officials say they are making some progress. (Photo/AP)

It is an improvement over the tracking system's first weeks, when officials were unable to contact any of the individuals who overdosed because of the way the system was initially set up.

The tracking system, believed to be the first of its kind in California, collects the names and phone numbers of people who overdosed on opioids and who received the emergency overdose antidote naloxone from first responders. Officials then make follow-up phone calls to the patients after they are released from the hospital to share information about addiction treatment options. The county has contracted with Bright Heart Health, a telemedicine company that employs counselors and clinicians who specialize in addiction, to do the outreach.

Generally, patients who overdose are often discharged from hospitals without systematic follow-ups by doctors and nurses, and return to using the same addictive drugs. Those who have survived an overdose are much more likely to overdose again, perhaps fatally.

"This is the boost that we were looking for as we're building this system," said Matt Willis, the county's public health officer. "It also shows that when we're able to reach out to people, we can make a difference."

Copyright 2018 San Francisco Chronicle

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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