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MATTERS is partnering with local agencies to increase law enforcement referrals to treatment for opioid use disorder. Law enforcement agencies may engage with people who use drugs (PWUD) across the many stages of the criminal justice system. It is important to link individuals with opioid use disorder to treatment and resources at the moment they are ready. The MATTERS Network was initially developed in partnership between the University at Buffalo Department of Emergency Medicine and UBMD Emergency Medicine to facilitate improved referrals from emergency departments to outpatient mental health and substance use treatment organizations. Since its expansion in 2019, the MATTERS platform has been integrated into workflows in over 40 hospitals, 100 clinics, and 1,000 other health-system partners across New York State.


In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, The MATTERS Network partnered with UBMD Emergency Telemedicine to connect patients to two local Virtual Emergency Departments to improve access to emergency care. Through this partnership and the participation of many community partners, the MATTERS Network is now able to facilitate immediate emergency referrals to treatment for opioid and substance use disorders (OUD/SUD) from nearly anywhere. This type of resource is vital when treating individuals in acute withdrawal and post-overdose.

The Buffalo Police Department (BPD) and Erie County Probation Departments have recently partnered with the MATTERS Network to connect individuals in the criminal justice system to the care they need, reducing recidivism and improving overall treatment of individuals with OUD. Law enforcement referrals will help support individuals with substance use disorder by linking them to treatment and resources for support. This cross-sector collaboration is unique in that BPD and other police departments are addressing the root of the problem for many individuals in the criminal justice system: substance use disorder.


Through these MATTERS Network referrals, officers can connect individuals on the street to a virtual emergency department telemedicine visit, where they can be evaluated for OUD/SUD and receive a referral to an outpatient clinic appointment at a treatment organization of their choice. These referred individuals receive the same support resources as folks that present to an emergency department in person: an optional peer support referral, access to a medication voucher and transportation assistance to and from their first clinic appointment. The news of this novel referral process has expanded into another local police department in Tonawanda, NY. Officers and staff at Tonawanda PD will be trained to facilitate these referrals from anywhere: including the police station or the side of the road!