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U. Hospital’s Bridge Program gives opioid addicts more treatment options

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SALT LAKE CITY — The University of Utah Hospital has launched the Bridge Program to link opioid addicts with counselors and health insurance after they recover from an overdose.

The 30-day program first gives recovering addicts a five-day dose of the stabilizing drug buprenorphine and a naloxone kit. Patients then go to weekly, medically-supervised sessions.

Program administrators can also help patients find mental health help if they want, as well as health insurance that can pay for more drug treatment.

People can also sign up for the program at the hospital’s emergency room.

About 70 people are taking part in the Bridge Program, which is being paid for by a state grant.

Evan Fields, a Peer Recovery Coach with Utah Support Advocates for Recovery Awareness, used heroin for seven years, and now helps people get into the program.

He thinks the program will help break the stigma opioid addicts can feel.

“To be admitted into a hospital room and then all of a sudden have a guy walk in and say, ‘Hey, I’m an addict myself, and I totally get it, and I’ve been here, and let me help you’ takes so much of that fear and anxiety [of reaching out] away,” Fields said.

The program is the first of its kind in Utah and based on research done across the country, including Yale University.