Altarum is committed to addressing the opioid crisis, and as we work with others to solve it, it’s worth remembering that the depth and breadth of the epidemic calls for a multi-pronged, “all-hands-on-deck” approach. And that approach is made up of the following essential steps:
Understanding the Problem
Understanding the problem includes drawing an accurate picture of the impact and access to services. Our work in Lorain County in Ohio provides a model. However, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach. For example, drug overdose rates in rural areas —challenged by scarcity of nearby resources, lack of trained clinicians, and transportation issues—surpass overdose rates in cities.
Strengthening Prevention through Education
We must provide Continuing Medical Education (CME) on responsible opioid prescribing to increase clinician knowledge and comfort around evidence-based tools for safe and effective pain management. Patient education and public awareness of the risks of overdose, take back programs, and safe storage and disposal are also important. About 80 percent of people who use heroin first misused prescription opioids. Altarum provides clinician education as part of multiple government-funded projects such as the Detroit Opioid Prevention Collaborative, which also engages community officials to enhance public awareness.
Increasing the Use of Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs (PDMPs)
According to the National Alliances for Model State Drug Laws (NAMSDL), patients with three or more prescribers within three months are seven-times more likely to experience a fatal opioid overdose. PDMPs enable clinicians to monitor new opioid prescriptions, and review patient history to identify potential patterns of misuse. PDMP registration is a required component of our CME training and technical assistance (TTA).
Improving Access to Services and Supports
The demand for substance abuse services far exceeds the supply. Altarum’s efforts to increase access include working with the St. Michael Foundation and Caradea providing TTA in clinics to integrate screening and referral services for post-partum women using opiates and other drugs; the Detroit Opioid Prevention Collaborative, joining forces with the Detroit Wane Mental Health Authority to distribute naloxone and connecting prescribing providers to training on medication assisted treatment (MAT); and with the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) Comprehensive Opiate Addiction Program, providing Peer Recovery Support TTA.
Opioid abuse and addiction are a public health crisis. The combined effect of our efforts and collaborations are what is needed to eventually improve the health of individuals, families and communities.