MultiCare Deaconess Hospital centers compassionate and evidence-based care to help patients with opioid use disorder

October 4, 2019

MultiCare Deaconess Hospital recently received grant funding from the Washington State Health Care Authority to help patients suffering from opioid use disorder (OUD) in their community, with a focus on patients at the highest risk of overdose and death. As a result, Deaconess has initiated buprenorphine protocols in the emergency department (ED) and inpatient units. This means when a patient presents with OUD, Deaconess can offer them evidence-based, life-saving medication that same day, and then an immediate connection to community resources.

MultiCare Deaconess Hospital staff were driven to explore protocols for OUD medication due to their desire to overcome stigma towards those suffering from opioid use disorder and engage with patients through compassion-centered care. When offered medication, one in three patients are likely to follow through with accessing support for substance use disorder if they’ve been given medication in the emergency department. Deaconess has seen even higher follow-through rates since implementing OUD medication protocols in the emergency department.

Recently, a patient was admitted for abdominal pain. Her inpatient stay also became an opportunity for staff to speak with her about her opioid use disorder and therapy options. Through the OUD medication protocol that Deaconess has put in place, staff were able to offer her options for support, and she chose buprenorphine. Upon release from the hospital, the patient kept her follow-up appointment and established a relationship with her prescribing doctor. She has continued to engage with the program, attending appointments and taking medication. Through this type of direct care in inpatient settings, Deaconess staff can develop stronger relationships with their patients and ensure patients have the knowledge and education to make informed decisions about what happens when they leave the hospital. Since initiating OUD medication protocols, Deaconess staff have worked with a multitude of patients who are willing to engage in recovery services.

One staff member, Chuck Henke, LICSWA, MHP, said, “Having access to OUD Care Managers has made a huge difference in our ability to access appropriate treatment for our patients in the emergency department and medical floors. Being able to have staff come talk to the patients directly about their options and make timely referrals for ongoing OUD treatment has created many more successful outcomes than we had previously. It has been better for the patients and better for the hospital.”

MultiCare Deaconess Hospital is dedicated to spreading awareness that OUD is a chronic illness, and of the need to make medications available in the ED for treating addiction and withdrawal. The hospital is advocating that OUD medication become the standard of care for patients with opioid use disorder, as it is evidence-based and saves lives. Deaconess Hospital hopes that their success with OUD medication protocols will encourage other hospitals to consider it. The team at Deaconess is willing to provide education and access to peers. If you are interested in learning more, have questions, or would like support in initiating OUD medication protocols, contact Debbie Waltman, RN, at Thank you for caring about this population of patients as we work together to address the opioid crisis and save lives.


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