Soon, EDs in Baltimore may feel some relief from the crushing volume of patients with substance use problems, thanks to the creation of a new type of facility designed for patients who are under the influence of drugs or alcohol and need a place where they can safely recover while receiving short-term medical care.

While some are calling the facility a new type of ED, the concept is more akin to a stabilization center, explains University of Maryland Medical Center's Andrea Smith, DNP, CRNP.

“It will not be where overdoses go; it will be where acutely intoxicated individuals can go for stabilization and sobering,” she explains. “That will be the place for those patients where they can be medically managed ... the overdoses will still come to [traditional] EDs because of the acuity of what is going on.”

Nonetheless, the new $6.2 million facility will be the first of its kind in Maryland, and the idea is for patients who meet the appropriate criteria to be transported there instead of to traditional EDs. Officials note that in addition to providing medical care, the new center will connect patients with behavioral health and social services.

Further, appropriate patients will be offered buprenorphine, a drug that can ease the effects of opioid withdrawal.

Currently, the services to be provided through the new center are offered temporarily from space at a residential drug treatment center, but officials expect the new, permanent facility to be up and running in about a year at a site that is under renovation.

At that point, staff at the new center should be able to assist roughly 35 people per day at an estimated cost of between $2 million and $3 million per year.

Center administrators aim to help more people conquer their addictions and to reduce the number of overdoses that have been plaguing the city. More than 700 lives were lost due to overdoses in Baltimore in 2017.

If the new approach is successful, officials note that it likely will be expanded to more sites in the coming years. Funding for the center comes from several sources, including the state budget and the Maryland Department of Health.