A state-wide electronic referral program connects those with opioid use disorder to medication-assisted treatment

For those with opioid use disorder (OUD), immediate access to buprenorphine and follow-up treatment is critical to success in recovery. Started as an initiative to reduce opioid prescribing in emergency departments, the New York Medication for Addiction Treatment and Electronic Referrals (MATTERS) is now a state-wide electronic referral system and hospital network that facilitates rapid entry into treatment for those with substance use disorders. Hospitals and clinics in the MATTERS network are required to offer buprenorphine to individuals presenting with OUD. Referrals are expedited by a state electronic database of treatment options patients can choose among using a Wi-Fi tablet, and transportation to the clinic is provided. The program has recently expanded its network to include correctional facilities, OB/GYN and primary care practices, and first responders such as EMS, police, and firefighters.

In addition to free transportation to and from clinic for the first appointment, the program provides:

  • A voucher covering the cost of buprenorphine for 2 weeks
  • Support for harm reduction measures such as providing naloxone and fentanyl test strips
  • Instruction for patients on initiating buprenorphine treatment at home
  • Consultation for hospitals in caring for those presenting with OUD
  • Referrals for patients during virtual emergency room visits

A detailed description of the program's rationale, development, and implementation is here, and recent news about the program here.

 Immediate access to buprenorphine and rapid placement into treatment are critical when responding to the opioid overdose crisis.

Continuum of Care
Harm Reduction
Type of Evidence
Response Approach
Cautious Opioid Prescribing
Medications for Opioid Use Disorder
Post-overdose response
Peer-reviewed Article

Evidence of Program Effectiveness

"New York State’s Medication Treatment and Electronic Referrals network provides compelling evidence that ED-initiated buprenorphine as a public health approach to addressing the opioid epidemic can be expanded into a scalable intervention model, operating through a broad network of hospitals and community-based clinicians." Clemency et al., 2022

"These five programs (an academic medical center, two large urban hospitals, a rural community hospital, and a community-based program) successfully implemented ED-initiated MOUD. Often a champion with knowledge of OUD treatment and a reliable connection with outpatient treatment began the program. The approach to patient identification varied from universal screening to relying on patient self-identification. Substance use treatment navigators provide crucial services but can be difficult to pay for within current reimbursement frameworks. Barriers to implementation include lack of knowledge about treatment options and effectiveness, stigma, community treatment capacity limits, and health insurance and reimbursement policies. Facilitators of success include taking a patient-centered, low-barrier approach, having a passionate champion, a strong structure with health system support, and a relationship with community partners. Metrics for success vary across programs. Some programs are expanding to include treating the use of other substances such as alcohol and stimulants." Thomas et al., 2022