Trailblazing SJ program helps teens struggling with opioid addiction, overdoses

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Wednesday, June 12, 2024
SJ program offers teens help struggling with addiction, overdoses
Santa Clara County's inpatient fentanyl opioid detox treatment program is designed to help teens through addiction and overdoses.

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- As we head into summer, health care professionals are worried about an increase in fentanyl overdoses among young people.

The Bay Area is home to the only program on the West Coast to help teens through addiction and fentanyl overdose.

Mayra, who wished to go by her first name only, has witnessed the danger and heartbreak of opioid addiction firsthand through the struggle a loved one faced.

"It has impacted my family member's life and mine as well," she said.

She didn't know what to do until someone with a probation department told her about a program, one that transformed her family member's life.

MORE: Why accessing drug addiction treatment is so hard in San Francisco

It's an inpatient fentanyl opioid same-day detox treatment program.

Designed for youth 20 years old and younger, it's run by Santa Clara County at Valley Medical Center in San Jose.

It started in 2021 when there were a record number of fentanyl deaths in the county. The program has so far helped 70 young people.

"We manage their withdrawal symptoms and safely start them on a medication called suboxone or buprenorphine," said Pediatrician Dr. Lee Trope, who developed the program. "This medication, prevents cravings, decreases withdrawal and saves lives."

The young patients start their recovery in the hospital and then are linked to the next phase.

MORE: SF doctors observe fentanyl side effect that causes people to be completely bent over after use

"Whether it be a rehab a residential program, or an outpatient program that involves therapists and doctors to continue them in their recovery," Dr. Trope said.

By calling the program number at 408-885-5255, someone as young as 16 can admit themselves.

"There's a recent law that just passed in California where if you're 16 and older, you can consent for yourself for buprenorphine or suboxone for medication for opioid use disorder without parental consent," Trope said.

Even though they encourage getting support from someone 18 years and older, the program's administrators acknowledge that it's not always a possibility.

"One of our guiding principles is that family can often be critically important when it comes to recovery," Dr. Trope said. "However in certain cases, whether a parent is struggling with addiction themselves, or a child doesn't want to tell their family member for fear of severe consequences, we can help you as well."

TAKE ACTION: Get help with addiction, substance abuse issues

Dr. Trope said the risk for opioid addiction is especially high during the less structured summer vacation months so she and her team are trying to get the word out that help is available 24 hours a day.

"If you're ready to start your recovery at 2 a.m. on a Saturday, we are available for you," she said.

Months after his initial 48-hour stay, Mayra's family member is thriving in the outpatient program.

"I just want to share with all parents that there's a program, here at Valley Medical that really helps our teens," she said, "That's our future our teens, so we have to look out for them."

For more information on the program, call 408-885-5255.

Young people or their loved ones can call at any time of the day or night to discuss admission -- you need to ask for the "pediatric hospitalist" on call.

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