CommonSpirit Health Expands Substance Use Care Across its California Emergency Departments 

Englewood, CO (June 14, 2022) – CommonSpirit Health has secured a $3.48 million grant to embed substance use navigators in its 29 California hospitals. This funding is part of an overall $40 million effort from the California Department of Health Care Services’ California Bridge Program to make treatment of substance use and mental health conditions the standard of care in all California emergency departments.

When patients come to the emergency department, they are in a very vulnerable position, often ready and willing to accept help.

- Alicia Mikolaycik Gonzalez, MD

Fundamental to this approach is a shift in perspective to viewing substance use disorder as a treatable medical emergency, rather than criminal activity or moral failing. Under this model, trained navigators will work alongside clinicians utilizing a harm-reduction methodology to identify patients in the emergency setting who would benefit from initiating medication for addiction treatment or need access to mental health care. Navigators would subsequently screen patients for these services, ultimately linking them with appropriate programs in the community.

"Last year, we saw more people in the US die from opioid overdose than ever before. It's one of the leading causes of death in our country,” said Alicia Mikolaycik Gonzalez, MD, Medical Director of Emergency Medicine, Dignity Health Marian Regional Medical Center and Regional Director and Clinical Training Lead, California Bridge Program. “When patients come to the emergency department, they are in a very vulnerable position, often ready and willing to accept help. Having navigators like this in our hospitals allows us to both expand our Medication for Addiction Treatment programs, putting treatment in the hands of patients when they need it most, and more importantly to do so in a way that combats stigma surrounding drug use, welcoming these patients into health care with the dignity and respect they deserve. Making this the standard of care in all of our California hospitals is a great example of how CommonSpirit is leading the way and addressing this challenge head on."

Integrated care that treats physical ailments, substance use and mental health simultaneously is shown to yield the best outcomes for the patients served. The navigator program puts in place equitable access to evidence-based care for individuals experiencing substance use disorder and mental illness by transforming hospital emergency departments into localized primary access points for treatment and services.

In addition to the critical navigator grant funding, California Bridge will provide CommonSpirit’s hospitals with materials and training for not only the navigators but also clinicians and other hospital staff and key stakeholders. The addition of the navigator role in the emergency setting further enhances the work CommonSpirit is already undertaking in its California hospitals to utilize medication-assisted treatment, an innovative combination of FDA-approved medications and behavioral health services and counseling, in the treatment of opioid use disorder.

About CommonSpirit Health
CommonSpirit Health is a nonprofit, Catholic health system dedicated to advancing health for all people. It was created in February 2019 by Catholic Health Initiatives and Dignity Health. CommonSpirit is committed to creating healthier communities, delivering exceptional patient care and ensuring every person has access to quality health care. With its national office in Chicago and a team of approximately 150,000 employees and 25,000 physicians and advanced practice clinicians, CommonSpirit Health operates 140 hospitals and more than 1,000 care sites across 21 states. Learn more at

About CommonSpirit Health Foundation
CommonSpirit Health Foundation is making the promise of health equity and health justice a reality across the country — through funding pioneering programs that ensure greater access, creating community partnerships and advocating for the underserved and most vulnerable. The foundation inspires investments and donations from individuals, private foundations, corporate foundations and other entities — to support programs and initiatives that enable all people to be healthy and safe. Learn more at