Kootenay Boundary Regional Hospital emergency department nurses: Jane Carlton, Tamara Roscoe, Teresa Myers, and Emily Larochelle.

Opioid use disorder (OUD) is a treatable medical condition. And, yet, many people living with OUD don’t have a regular care provider who can help connect them to medication. For many, their first exposure to treatment is through an emergency department (ED).

Given the increasing number of toxic drug deaths across BC – 2,224 in 2021 according to the BC Coroner’s Service – Interior Health’s Emergency Services and Mental Health and Substance Use networks partnered in June 2021 to connect people experiencing opioid use disorder with Suboxone in emergency departments. Suboxone is an Opioid Agonist Treatment (OAT) medication used to treat OUD.

The project includes offering Suboxone “to-go packs” to start patients at home and a new urgent referral process to connect people to ongoing OAT in the community.

In May, Suboxone in the ED was introduced in hospitals throughout the West Kootenay, including the Kootenay Boundary Regional Hospital in Trail, the Castlegar and District Community Health Centre, and the Kootenay Lake Hospital in Nelson. All sites will be included by September 2022.

Having Suboxone available in EDs has decreased barriers to accessing OAT in communities by providing frontline nurses and physicians with the necessary training to prescribe the treatment, and by helping educate patients on how to start it themselves at home.

Interior Health