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Written by: Lucy Connery MPH

Thank you to Rochelle Alleyne for covering the progress on the Pinellas Matters initiative in Pinellas County, Florida! ABC Action News released the initial coverage of this program in November 2023, and Alleyne came out with a follow up article this week to highlight the collaboration between Pinellas County and MATTERS. 

Pinellas County has seen an increase in opioid overdose death trends in recent years, from 166 deaths in 2014 and 597 deaths in 2022. In response, Pinellas Matters focuses on improving treatment for opioid use disorder (OUD) in the emergency department (ED). Like MATTERS, this program calls for rapid linkage to resources and treatment while still in the ED.

When an individual presents to the emergency department with OUD, they are stabilized, provided with naloxone (Narcan) educational materials, and immediately linked to peer recovery services. Peers are people who have had success in their recovery from substance use disorder and work to help others who are in their earlier stages of recovery. These Recovery Peer Specialists discuss the different treatment options available and can assist in linkage to community-based treatment and medications for addiction treatment (MAT).

MATTERS’ Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Joshua Lynch, traveled to Tampa Bay this month to lecture in Pinellas County about OUD and the MATTERS approach. MATTERS (Medication for Addiction Treatment and Electronic Referrals) was created in Buffalo, NY by Dr. Lynch in 2016 to improve linkage to medication and treatment out of the emergency department and has had great success in expanding across New York State and into Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

MATTERS suggested protocol calls for an efficient evaluation for OUD, linkage to medication, and a rapid referral to follow up treatment. Referrals are submitted electronically using the MATTERS rapid referral platform and link individuals to resources that are built-into the process. The program offers a medication voucher to individuals with Medicaid or no insurance to cover the cost of up to 14-days of a buprenorphine prescription. Similar to the Pinellas County protocol, MATTERS links individuals to peer support services. All individuals can opt-in to be contacted by a peer in recovery for support at the time of referral. Additionally, MATTERS offers a transportation voucher to provide individuals with a free, round-trip ride for their first follow-up appointment.

MATTERS looks forward to continuing its collaboration with Pinellas County! We appreciate the opportunity to share successes and lessons learned in developing our program. Contact us today to learn more about MATTERS.