From The Daily Progress.
by Rebecca Kendall
Vital Signs: Community partners teaming up on opioid crisis
Last month, the federal government unveiled its plan to address the opioid epidemic. While our region (Charlottesville and Albemarle, Fluvanna, Greene, Louisa, and Nelson counties) is not as severely impacted as other areas, such as Southwest Virginia, our region’s overdose rates, on average, are higher than those statewide, and both opioid overdoses and the demand for treatment is on the rise.
As communities grapple with how to stem the tide of the devastating impact of opioid addiction, research shows that for it to be effective, a systems approach is required. According to the Institute for Healthcare Improvement, “The complexity of the opioid crisis requires medical, legislative, behavioral, educational and legal changes, and it requires that these changes be made in coordination with each other, at the same time. Communities will succeed only if they engage and align all actors to create systems that can prevent new individuals from becoming dependent on opioids, while supporting the recovery of those who already are.”
This month, Region Ten and the Community Mental Health and Wellness Coalition (CMHWC) will convene community partners to begin planning a systems approach to the local crisis. Partners include local criminal justice officials, the Thomas Jefferson Health District, University of Virginia and Sentara health systems, and other community-based organizations. Community partners will identify local resources and priority activities to help limit the supply of opioids, raise public awareness about the risk of opioid addiction, identify and manage opioid dependent patients, and provide treatment for opioid addiction.
An important strategy to reduce the supply of opioids and to prevent their misuse is the safe storage and disposal of prescription medication. Ninety-six percent of opioid poisonings among children and teens occur in the home.
Prescriptions should never be shared and should be kept in locked containers, and unused medication should be safely disposed of with a medication disposal bag, or a local drug disposal site. Local drug disposal sites include Sentara Martha Jefferson Hospital outpatient pharmacy, UVa Health System’s outpatient pharmacy, and Fluvanna, Greene and Louisa sheriffs’ offices.
In addition to these prevention strategies, local partners have been working to expand opioid addiction treatment options. If you have thought about cutting down or stopping your use of prescription painkillers, heroin or any other opioid drugs, it is important to know that others have succeeded on this journey. Although no single pathway to recovery is right for everyone, research has shown people seeking recovery from opioid problems are more successful when they combine a prescribed medication used to treat addiction with professional counseling and a strong support system.
Last year, the Virginia Department of Medical Assistance Services, Virginia Department of Health and the Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Disability Services launched the Addiction Recovery and Treatment Services initiative to expand substance use disorder treatment, and specifically, Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT), which is the most effective form of opioid treatment. Region Ten provides MAT for individuals with private insurance or Medicaid and is currently seeking funding for those without insurance.
Region Ten is also enhancing its residential and detoxification services for men at the Mohr Center, a 10-bed residential substance abuse program that will now include four detoxification/stabilization beds. The Women’s Center at Moore’s Creek, a residential treatment facility for women diagnosed with substance use and co-occurring disorders, also will open in June. The facility offers accommodations that allow each woman to have up to two children younger than 5 reside with her while she receives treatment.