Massachusetts Hospitals to Pilot ER-Based Opioid Treatment Program

Three hospitals will test a program funded by the Health Policy Commission.


Heroin photo via

A $3 million state budget allocation will allow three local hospitals to test a model of addiction treatment that will begin in the emergency room.

The funds will come from the Health Policy Commission’s Distressed Hospital Trust Fund, and focus on providing care to patients suffering an overdose, State House News reports. The program will use anti-opioid medications including buprenorphine and naltrexone, which research has shown help patients adhere to treatment and avoid subsequent overdoses after discharge.

As opioid overdoses continue to increase in Massachusetts—a September state report found that opioid-related deaths have increased by 350 percent in 15 years—the state has implemented new education, treatment, and prevention measures, including an opioid urgent care center at Boston Medical Center. The new pilot program would join those efforts.

The ER model could prove game-changing, as the Health Policy Commission says opioid-antagonist drugs are not widely accessible. In a study from this year, it found that providers of the medications are clustered in highly populated areas, mostly in eastern Massachusetts. The study also found that many patients with opioid-related issues live more than five miles from the nearest provider.

The three hospitals that will test the program have not yet been chosen. The Health Policy Commission will allow requests for its emergency department pilot program in February, and choose the three hospitals in June. The two-year pilot program will launch in September of next year.