Legislature moves bills improving overdose treatment access in emergency rooms


Patrick Jones


Bills on providing medication-assisted treatment (MAT) in emergency departments (EDs) are moving through the Michigan Legislature. House Bill 5163 and Senate Bill 579 both aim to expand capacity protocol for MAT programs in EDs and build networks for warm hand-offs to community organizations. 

Both bills passed on the floor of the body where they originated. HB 5163 is awaiting discussion in the Senate Health Policy and Human Services Committee and SB 579 is in the House Health Policy Committee.


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These bills would create a grant project managed by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) for hospitals who demonstrate their ability to implement the program and have 50 or more patients visiting their ED annually for substance abuse. The funding hospitals receive depend on the amount of patients they see. 

Amy Dolinky, senior advisor of MDHHS’ Michigan Opioids Strategy, says hospitals can opt out of the program depending on their capacity to implement the program. This applies to smaller, rural hospitals from creating MAT programs in their EDs. Dolinky said future efforts will focus more on those smaller hospitals, but larger EDs are the priority for these bills. 

“We are not taking out the opportunity for other hospitals to participate that potentially sees under 50 overdoses annually, but we do want to make sure that for this round of funding that those hospitals with the most burden in treating overdoses are really prioritized. Then as we move forward [we will have] some ability to look at each hospital system in a flexible way throughout the decision making process.”

These programs will create new protocols on how to treat patients overdosing in the ED for hospitals who receive this funding. Currently, nineteen hospitals in Michigan operate under this protocol through a separate grant program, which informs and improves the requirements and procedures for these bills. Protocols include guidelines around who to hire, sustainability planning, and staff training. Dolinky says:

“The greatest information that we have right now is really around the nineteen hospitals that have already created these protocols. Through that initial grant program, we have been able to identify some of those challenges, and actually change this new round of funding to include technical assistance on some of those pieces.”

The bills would also improve connections between hospitals and community-based organizations and provide warm hand-offs between them. Dolinky says the bills would bring community partners to the table and create a network so hospitals know who is providing what services. This will allow hospitals to transfer patients more quickly to where they can receive the best treatment.

“A lot of things can be addressed by our community partners. So, being able to bring that together will really streamline the process and allow for education on both the provider side as well as the community-based organization side to bring more continuity of care for individuals with substance use disorder or experiencing an overdose.”