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​​Pennsylvania Substance Use Navigation (PA-SUN) 

Topics: Get Involved | Evidence | Resources for Emergency Departments | Screening and Assessment Tools | Medication Assisted Treatment | Linkage to Treatment | Naloxone | Learning Opportunities | Harm Reduction

The Pennsylvania Substance Use Navigation (PA-SUN) Program began as a statewide pilot designed to enhance treatment options for patients with opioid use disorder (OUD) by increasing access to medication-assisted treatment (MAT) using Food and Drug Administration-approved medication for the treatment of OUD in Emergency Departments (EDs).

PA-SUN aimed to reduce opioid overdose deaths by:

  1. Increasing the number of EDs that are prepared to initiate buprenorphine, prescribe or dispense naloxone, and facilitate linkage to treatment, and 
  2. Reducing barriers and supporting clinical quality improvement.

The Department offered EDs in Pennsylvania the opportunity to receive free technical assistance, consultation, and support from expert opioid medical consultant clinicians with OUD treatment knowledge to optimize care for patients with OUD.

The PA-SUN pilot included 54 hospitals throughout the Commonwealth with participation in, 93 technical assistance consultations to prescribers and health teams on topics including, but not limited to, naloxone distribution and linkage to care. PA-SUN also provided a total of 7,008 doses of free naloxone to EDs for distribution to patients.  The PA-SUN pilot officially ended on August 31, 2023, and developed into a new funding opportunity for emergency departments in Pennsylvania.

Get Involved

Pennsylvania Substance Use Navigation Program Funding Opportunity: The PA-SUN Request for Applications #67-166 closed on January 16, 2024. New PA-SUN grantees are anticipated to initiate activities to increase ED capacity to provide linkage to care services to patients at risk for overdose or substance use disorder through navigators in May 2024.​

Free Continuing Education:  To aid EDs in increasing knowledge on topics such as harm reduction, buprenorphine initiation, linkage to care, and stigma, asynchronous (self-study) education modules were created. Learn more here.


Opioid use disorder is a strongly stigmatized, chronic relapsing disease; it is not a moral failing. People who present to the ED for other chronic diseases such as diabetes or asthma are stabilized with medication and linked to outpatient care. Individuals with OUD can overcome addiction with a similar treatment plan (National Institute on Drug Abuse).

Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) is the use of medications, in combination with counseling to treat opioid use disorder. Buprenorphine is one of the medications approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat opioid use disorder. As with all medications used in MAT, buprenorphine should be prescribed as part of a comprehensive whole-person approach treatment plan that includes other behavioral therapies and support systems (

EDs are a vital point of engagement for buprenorphine initiation and long-term linkage to treatment. A 2015 study (JAMA) found that twice as many patients in OUD treatment at least 30 days used less illicit opioids with an ED-initiated buprenorphine and a brief negotiation interview (BNI) compared with those who received a referral only or a BNI and facilitated referral.

Research has also found that patients who receive buprenorphine are less likely to overdose, die, use illicit opioids, spread hepatitis C virus or human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), and have fewer injection drug use complications and contacts with the criminal justice system.

Resources for Emergency Departments

Screening and Assessment Tools

Medication Assisted Treatment

  • As of January 2023, a Buprenorphine Waiver (X-Waiver) is no longer required to treat patients for OUD. Buprenorphine remains a Schedule III controlled substance and prescriptions for buprenorphine require a standard DEA registration number. There are no longer limits or patient caps on the number of patients a provider may treat for OUD with buprenorphine. The DEA released a letter to announce new training requirements that will go into effect June 21, 2023. DEA and SAMHSA are developing training requirement guidance.
  • Buprenorphine Use in the Emergency Department Tool (American College of Emergency Physicians)
  • Models for Implementing ED Initiated Buprenorphine (ACEP article)

Linkage to Treatment


  • The Pennsylvania Department of Health's Physician General signed a standing order prescription for naloxone.
  • Pennsylvania residents who purchase naloxone using their insurance might be eligible to receive up to $50 to assist with the out-of-pocket cost. Patients may visit their local pharmacy to learn more about the Naloxon​e Copay Assistance Program Certificate.
  • If a patient does not have health insurance or if cost is a barrier, they may be able to receive free naloxone by mail. Through a partnership with the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency and NEXT Distro, anyone can get naloxone mailed to their home for free. Learn more about free naloxone by mail.
  • Naloxone Product Fact Sheet (Pennsylvania Department of Health)
  • The Pennsylvania Overdose Prevention Program (POPP), a joint initiative between PCCD and the Pennsylvania Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs (DDAP), offers multiple formulations of naloxone as well as drug checking strips designed to detect xylazine and fentanyl at no cost to individuals and organizations across Pennsylvania including EDs. EDs may learn more about obtaining naloxone through this initiative by visiting the POPP website or contacting PCCD staff at:
  • Emergency Departments can play a vital role in distributing naloxone to patients. PA DOH developed a Naloxone Distribution in Emergency Departments Guide to promote naloxone distribution successes in Emergency Departments in Pennsylvania.

Learning Opportunities (CME and non-CME)

Harm Reduction

EDs may also play a vital role in the reduction and management of health risks related to patients who report injection drug use.