Emergency Physicians Champion Alternatives to Opioids

Emergency physicians worked with Congress to pass opioid legislation critical to improving emergency overdose prevention and care coordination, as well as optimizing pain management in emergency departments. 

ACEP worked closely with Congress to develop the Alternatives to Opioids (ALTO) in the Emergency Department Act (H.R. 5197/S. 2516) and the Preventing Overdoses While in Emergency Rooms (POWER) Act (H.R. 5176/S. 2610) to ensure that emergency physicians are equipped with the tools they need to fight the opioid epidemic from both a prevention and treatment standpoint and provide patients with the care they need.

In a significant victory for emergency medicine and patients, Congress provided funding for these initiatives at the end of 2019. This ensures that the programs can expand into more communities in 2020.  

ALTO makes sure that physicians and others in the emergency department consider non-opioid treatment options (nerve blockers, over-the-counter-medications, or others) first. The program is based on the successful ALTO program developed in New Jersey and recently tested in Colorado.

The POWER Act provides grants to establish policies and procedures for initiating Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) in the emergency department. As the Surgeon General writes in Annals of Emergency Medicine:

“Emergency physicians have been and always will be the all-too-necessary safety net for many individuals, and an especially important partner in combating the opioid overdose epidemic. Great strides have been made in a short time, but we cannot become complacent in our fight against an evolving enemy. America’s patients and communities need emergency physicians to redouble their efforts, challenge their colleagues and institutions to do more, and partner to work upstream, now more than ever.”

Efforts like the POWER Act support education and additional resources to help implementation of MAT in the emergency department and develop best practices to provide a “warm handoff,” ensuring a patient is directed to appropriate community resources and providers to stay engaged in treatment.

Emergency physicians are proud of the progress being made to fight the opioid epidemic. But there is still much work to be done.

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