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Report: State Near Top In ED, Hospital Visits For Opioid Abuse

June 20, 2017

Connecticut has one of the nation's highest rates of opioid-related inpatient stays in the country, according to a federal government report released June 20 that also shows 1.27 million emergency department visits or inpatient stays nationwide in a one-year period.

The data, compiled by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, represents a 99 percent increase for emergency treatment and a 64 percent increase for inpatient care in 2014 (the latest available figures) compared to 2005. In 2014, Connecticut had the sixth-highest rate of inpatient stays for males (377.3 visits per 100,000 population) and 11th-highest for females (299.8). It also had the fourth-highest rate of emergency department visits among males (323.7 per 100,000 population) and eight-highest among females (188.9). The full report is available here.

Besides more evidence of an opioid epidemic in the state, what does it mean?

"It's not necessarily a bad thing that Connecticut has high rates of hospitalization for opioid use disorder," says Dr. Craig Allen, Rushford's medical director. "Providers and the state have engaged with insurance companies and, coupled with parity pressures, strongly encouraged insurance providers to pay for an appropriate level of care -- particularly for the opioid use disorder population, which is at such high risk for death and morbidity."

Last year, 917 people died from a drug overdose in Connecticut, a 25 percent increase from 2015. The high  rates of emergency department visits, says Dr. Allen, reflect a high concentration of opioid-related issues in nearby Northeast states, particularly Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New York and Maine -- each among the highest opioid-overdose death rates in the nation.

"The low cost, and easy availability of heroin," says Dr. Allen, "and, now, the mixing with synthetic opioids like fentanyl are driving the deaths."

Yet preventative measures, he says, have made a difference in Connecticut:

  • The health-care industry and local communities are better educated about the risks of long-term use of opioid medications.
  • Naloxone, the opioid overdose reversal medication.
  • Fewer opioid analgesics have been prescribed, according to recent data from the state Department of Consumer Protection.

Prevention, screening, early intervention and improved access to evidence-based treatments are the surest ways to reduce opioid-use disorder cases, says Dr. Allen.

"The first-line treatment for opioid use disorder is Medication Assisted Treatment," he says.

Hartford HealthCare's Behavioral Health Network's MATCH (or Medication Assisted Treatment Close to Home) clinics, created two years ago amid the state's opioid crisis, use psychotherapy naloxone to treat patients with an opiate dependency paired with buprenorphine-based agonist medications (such as   Suboxone) or opioid receptor antagonist medications like naltrexone (Vivitrol) to treat people suffering from an opioid addiction.

"We went from treating 300 patients in 2015 to over 1,000 in 2016," says Dr. Allen. "Patients who are engaged in medication-assisted treatment half their risk of overdose and subsequently experience fewer emergency department visits and inpatient stays."

For information on the Behavioral Health Network's MATCH program, click here.