Yale addiction experts receive grant to expand substance use disorder services

Project ASSERT is an innovative program that identifies patients with substance use disorders (SUD) and provides interventions and referral to treatment.

In response to the rapidly escalating opioid crisis, the Yale University Department of Emergency Medicine (DEM) joined forces with Yale New Haven Health System (YNHHS) to expand Project ASSERT (Alcohol & Substance Abuse Services, Education, & Referral to Treatment).

Project ASSERT is an innovative program that identifies patients with substance use disorders (SUD) and provides interventions and referral to treatment. The joint university-hospital effort recently received a grant for $4.8 million dollars over five years from the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

DEM chair and principal investigator for the project, Dr. Gail D’Onofrio is excited about the collaboration with hospital and community leaders throughout the health systems. “We are fortunate to be partnering with national experts in this field, including Drs. Jeanette Tetrault, the fellowship director for Addiction Medicine, and Melissa Weimer, medical director of the Addiction Medicine Consult Service at Yale,” says D’Onofrio. “By greatly expanding the geographic region we serve, the grant funding will allow us to enhance partnerships with community treatment programs and providers and serve a broad range of patients with SUD.”

Project ASSERT will provide SUD screening, intervention, and referral services to patients in the Greater New Haven, Bridgeport, and New London areas. These three cities, which rank in the top Connecticut towns with the highest number of opioid overdose deaths, have the greatest need for increased access to SUD services.

The project goals are to:

  • Provide education on Screening, Brief Intervention, and Referral to Treatment, an evidence-based practice to identify individuals at risk or with SUD, provide brief interventions and refer to treatment as necessary. The project plans to educate large number of providers in the identified geographic areas over the five-year grant period.
  • Ensure that medical professionals screen for substance use disorders, integrating new and efficient screening tools into Epic.
  • Expand access to evidence-based substance use disorder treatment providers and programs.
  • Use Epic data to improve care throughout the system. 

Additionally, the team will offer training to practitioners to obtain a DATA 2000 Waiver, a necessary requirement to prescribe buprenorphine for individuals with opioid use disorder. All screening results and SUD care plans will be documented in Epic, to support a continuum of care for these patients throughout the health system.

Every hour, eight people in the United States lose their lives to overdose,” says Tetrault. “The expansion of Project ASSERT is a huge step towards reducing morbidity and mortality associated with opioid use disorders. Instead of treating symptoms and discharging people without a plan to treat the root cause of the problem, we can provide medical treatment and strategies that can set them on a path of putting their lives back together.”

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