Ross Sullivan, MD – Upstate University Hospital, Syracuse NY

Ross Sullivan, MD – Upstate University Hospital, Syracuse NY

Video length: 2:48


Ross Sullivan speaking:

My name is Ross Sullivan.

I'm an emergency physician in Syracuse New York at the SUNY Upstate emergency department and I'm also the director of the SUNY Upstate Opioid Bridge Clinic.

This hospital, we see a hundred thousand people in the ER and the number of patients we've seen in our ER due to opioid-related problems have doubled really in the past five years.

Couple that with a rate of, in 2016, about 200 people dead in our County and what I realized was that what we were doing was not working.

There had to be a different way to help these people to make them safer and make them healthier and what we're doing now is we've started a comprehensive program, a clinic, a bridge clinic.

So what we do in the bridge clinic is that we bridge that gap of patients who come into our emergency departments, particularly after an opioid overdose or in withdrawal, we give them a dose of buprenorphine.

They get a single dose in the ER and then within three to five days they follow up in a clinic that we've established and there they see myself and actually a peer and a peer is a peer specialist.

These are people who are also many years in recovery themselves, but are also specialists in social sciences.

They might be social workers and might be case managers, and together we also help plug the people into the social services they need.

Whether it's helping them get housing, whether it's getting them insurance, food stamps if they need it.

These things all have to also happen at the same time before we can even think about them doing all the work they need to do to try to conquer their drug addiction.

We are now seeing about 60 patients a month. We've seen now in the two years or over 300 patients.

Those are people who would not have gotten help. Those are people who would not be in treatment.

Of the people who come to our clinic, about 80 percent of them we successfully linked to treatment.

We actually decreased emergency room visits by about 40 to 50 percent.

On 1 month follow-up, about 75 to 80% of them are successfully still there one month later now getting buprenorphine, or methadone, or some other type of treatment.

I started here four months ago... so about three months... I have touched opiates since I started here.

I mean I've been to five, six different rehabs and none of them worked.

Inpatient rehab in long-term and short-term and none of it worked.

They were very helpful for me because before I came here I was an opiate addict and since I've been here, I've been off of opiates, more focused on my treatment, instead on the next fix.

The most rewarding thing about this work really is, you know, when a patient really thanks you.

Then, you know, they can look you in the eyes and tell you about how their life has changed.

I know it's kind of cliche. We talk about that a lot in emergency medicine, but our job is you know, people in, people out, we get by by assuming and hoping that everybody does well.

But, to really see the fruits of your labor, to really see somebody be a productive member of society, is the most rewarding thing that I've ever experienced.