State awards San Diego hospitals nearly $1 million to address opioid crisis

The ER at Scripps Mercy Hospital in Hillcrest.
The ER at Scripps Mercy Hospital in Hillcrest.
(Nelvin C. Cepeda / The San Diego Union-Tribune)

Eight hospitals granted $120,000 apiece to provide medical and behavioral health treatment


Eight hospitals in San Diego County have been awarded a total of $960,000 to address the opioid crisis by helping emergency departments access medication-assisted treatment.

Funding from the state’s California Bridge Behavioral Health Navigator Program supports hospitals in their effort to treat patients with opioid addictions and concurrent mental health conditions in their emergency departments. Participating hospitals identify and treat patients who would benefit from medicines such as buprenorphine to prevent cravings and withdrawal symptoms from opioids, as well as other behavioral health services.

California Bridge Clinical Program Director Elizabeth Keating said hospitals in San Diego County that were granted funding each received $120,000. They are Alvarado Hospital Medical Center, Scripps Mercy Hospital San Diego, Scripps Memorial Hospital La Jolla, Scripps Memorial Hospital Encinitas, Scripps Mercy Hospital Chula Vista, the Palomar Medical Centers in both Escondido and Poway, Sharp Coronado Hospital, Sharp Grossmont Hospital, Sharp Memorial Hospital and UC San Diego Health in La Jolla and Hillcrest.

Kaiser Permanente San Diego Medical Center and Kaiser Permanente Zion Medical Center, two hospitals that each received $100,000 in grants at the end of 2020, are in the application process for this year’s round of funding, Keating said.

Overdose deaths caused by use of the synthetic opioid fentanyl have been on the rise in San Diego County over the past decade.

County of San Diego Health & Human Services Agency data shows that there were 233 confirmed and suspected fentanyl-related overdose deaths in 2020, compared to only 12 confirmed deaths in 2010. The county reports that preliminary data from 2021 shows that nearly 900 people died from accidental opioid overdoses, which is a 55 percent increase from the previous year.

On Thursday, the county announced it plans to install 12 vending machines in the region to distribute naloxone, also known by its brand name Narcan, which is a medicine used to prevent overdose deaths by restoring normal breathing. Half the machines are expected to be installed by the end of the year, and they will be accessible anonymously and free of charge by community members age 18 and older.