Thursday, Sep 20, 2018
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Op-Ed Columns


Hospital systems stepping up in opioid fight


There is no denying that the rising opioid overdose rate is taking a huge toll on Ohio families and our community. I’m impressed every day by the collaboration and innovation among Ohio’s hospitals and community resources to address this crisis. 

While we still have much work to do, we launched the Ohio Hospital Association Opiate Response Initiative this summer to share resources, training, and best practices working in one part of the state to the hospitals across the state.

Many hospitals throughout Ohio are expanding inpatient detox beds and outpatient behavioral health and addiction treatment services. They are also strengthening partnerships with law enforcement, community diversion programs, and drug courts, as well as behavioral health service providers.

For example, the University of Toledo Medical Center opened a new inpatient detoxification unit earlier this year. The detox unit will help safely manage the physical symptoms of withdrawal associated with stopping opioid abuse and then connect individuals with services to enhance their possibility for success in overcoming addition.

I commend the medical center for taking this personal approach to addressing both detox and behavioral health for a long-term solution rather than a quick fix.

Wayne Healthcare, through the Coalition for a Healthy Darke County, has provided Vivitrol injections to more than 250 people and collaborates regularly with law enforcement and education leaders to address opioid addiction. 

Our cities are also stepping up to the plate by creating crisis response units and hospital referral programs as well as hiring new personnel to direct efforts toward the crisis in their cities.

A number of hospitals and health systems, including ProMedica and Mercy Health, are participating in the Smart RX — Smart Medicine and Responsible Treatment program. The program pairs the latest expertise on reducing prescription drug abuse with leading edge online training techniques designed for today’s busy medical professional. 

These are just a few of the dozens of examples of what hospitals and health systems around the state are doing to save lives and prevent this crisis from worsening.

To help accelerate the efforts of our hospitals and health systems, OHA has partnered with government leaders, law enforcement, and community organizations to address policy issues. For example, new emergency department prescribing guidelines were developed. As a member of Gov. John Kasich’s Opiate Action Team, OHA, along with other health care professionals and state agency representatives, worked to identify strategies that can assist prescribers in reducing misuse, abuse, and unintentional overdoses in prescribing pain medications.

OHA and the Ohio State Medical Association worked with the state Medical Board on new rules limiting the duration and strength of opioid prescriptions for acute pain. We also worked with the Pharmacy Board to develop rules requiring prescribers to report specific diagnostic codes for all controlled substance prescriptions.

Additionally, hospitals have invested significant dollars to automate prescription reporting and to incorporate the Ohio Automated Rx Reporting System, or OARRS, into their EHRs and their workflows.

There isn’t an easy or quick answer to the crisis at hand, but it’s important we share the best practices and solutions hospitals are deploying beyond their four walls. They have expanded their scope and are leading efforts to truly heal our communities.

Mike Abrams is the president and CEO of the Ohio Hospital Association.

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