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CARESTAR Foundation Awards Grant to Contra Costa County EMS Partnership for Opioid Response

Berkeley, California – August 5, 2020 – The CARESTAR Foundation has awarded a two-year, $450,000 grant to evaluate a pilot program aimed at improving care delivery for opioid use disorder (OUD) patients in Contra Costa County. The grant supports the CA Bridge Program at the Public Health Institute, which has begun a multidimensional, innovative project to address the issue in alliance with the California Department of Public Health, the Contra Costa County EMS Agency, American Medical Response, the Contra Costa County Department of Public Health, and UCLA.

Above: EMS teams of first responders from the Fire Department and EMS ambulance transporters stand together in Contra Costa County, CA. EMS responders are part of an innovative program improving care for opioid use patients in a pilot supported by the CARESTAR Foundation.

Tanir Ami, CARESTAR CEO, says that the grant fits squarely with CARESTAR’s goals to strengthen partnerships and build knowledge in injury prevention, emergency response, and trauma care. “CARESTAR is fully engaged in systems improvement, and in realigning care provision to better fit the needs of all communities. We are opening the door to big conversations about providing the right care, at the right time, in the right place,” she says. “The CA Bridge program will help improve opioid use treatment for our diverse population, with immediate use of evidence-based medication, a culture-changing viewpoint that is more supportive, and a means of following patients to help prevent future overdoses.”

“It is about changing the practices of EMS providers and creating systems that integrate EMS, acute care hospitals, and public health.” — The CA Bridge Program.

According to Gene Hern, MD, EMS Director of CA Bridge and an emergency physician, “This is the first county-wide pilot in California where EMS responders start buprenorphine treatment for OUD directly from the ambulance, and then outreach workers connect with patients within the community to provide longer-term resources. Improvement in this area of care is critical right now, given that the number of deadly opioid overdoses in many California counties is rising drastically.”

In Contra Costa specifically, deaths from overdose increased 51.9 percent between 2017 and 2018, according to the group.

Dr. Hern adds: “California is facing a dual crisis of COVID-19 and increasing opioid overdoses as fentanyl and methamphetamine move into our communities. Integrating EMS into a system of care for people with OUD is an essential next step in combatting the opioid epidemic. We are thrilled to have the opportunity to innovate and lead this effort for the entire country.”

He continues, “Many people found overdosed are reversed with naloxone only to go out and use again. It is not uncommon for a person to overdose multiple times in a single day. We think this is a tragedy and a failure. In the ER, we have seen that by implementing a comprehensive protocol of treatment for post-overdose survivors, we can stop this wasteful and deadly pattern of overdose. By extending this protocol to EMS, we can better reach marginalized communities, where most patients who die from overdoses tend to be, and bring more access to modern, evidence-based treatments that work.”

“Supporting this pilot is a perfect opportunity for CARESTAR to help redefine and enhance crisis response,” says Tanir Ami. “We want to help create an emergency response system that is fully integrated, and that treats people in a unified and compassionate way.”

About the CARESTAR Foundation

The CARESTAR Foundation was founded as a result of the sale of CALSTAR (California Shock Trauma Air Rescue) and honors CALSTAR’S legacy and lifesaving work in the field of emergency and trauma care. CARESTAR’s mission is to strengthen connections and foster partnerships in California’s injury prevention, emergency response, and trauma care landscape to improve outcomes for all Californians.


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