A Buffalo grown program to help treat opioid addiction is expanding its reach across New York and into New Jersey. Founded in 2017 by physician leaders from UBMD Emergency Medicine, the Medication for Addiction Treatment and Emergency Referrals (MATTERS) program now connects hundreds of hospitals and community clinics and more than 1,000 pharmacies.
When patients end up at the emergency department or an EMS situation during an overdose, the program provides immediate referral opportunities to community-based treatment and harm reduction services, an electronic referral platform, telemedicine consultations and vouchers for transportation and medications.
Providing prompt access to treatment is vital, as many people change their minds if they wait too long, said Dr. Joshua Lynch, a senior physician with UBMD and medical director at Kaleida Health’s DeGraff Medical Park. “The window of opportunity is so short that when they’re ready for help, you have to be able to meet them where they are and seize the opportunity,” he said. “It takes just a little something to throw that off. … We’ve lost a lot of people between that interval and when they’re ready to try again.”
While remaining headquartered in Buffalo at UBMD’s downtown offices, the program will offer coordinator and technical assistance to the New Jersey Department of Health. Lynch will consult on the project to work with stakeholders to develop a treatment organization network like he did in Buffalo and across New York, working this time with local New Jersey physicians to onboard hospitals and refer patients.
MATTERS is one part of a multipronged expansion in New Jersey funded by a $3.2 million, four-year federal grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration to strengthen first-provider overdose response and linkage to care.
The program operates from the UB Gateway building with a staff of 10, including several new hires. Another five will be hired later this year when the additional state funds come in, including outreach coordinators working from Buffalo and around the state. Lynch expects a similar approach to follow in New Jersey, with new partnerships in other states anticipated by year’s end.
“The goal is to have pieces of this program successfully replicated in other states,” he said.
The expansion comes as MATTERS begins receiving $8 million in opioid settlement funds awarded last year through the state for expansion, as well as millions more in state funds through the New York Office of Addiction Services and Supports to distribute test strips statewide for fentanyl and Xylazine.
By year’s end, the program will be able to offer more options to people with opiate use disorder, alcohol and cocaine as well as mental health issues and other chronic health disorders like HIV and hepatitis.