According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), overdose deaths from prescription painkillers increased nationally by 218 percent among men and 471 percent among women during a recent 16-year span. These numbers may very well add up to the most compelling national health crisis in
As a leader in healthcare in Virginia and a recognized innovator throughout the country, Sentara Healthcare is committed to addressing health concerns of not only individual patients who reach out to us, but also communities facing a never-seen health crisis such as this. This past fall, three of our hospitals took steps to prevent and more fully treat opioid addiction:
Sentara RMH Medical Center
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office on Women’s Health (OWH) awarded a federal grant to our Harrisonburg-based medical center to help prevent
opioid misuse, particularly among women in the area.
We will partner with Valley Program for Aging Services, the Central Shenandoah Health District of the Virginia Department of Health and the Strength in Peers organization to combat opioid misuse among women 35 and older. Our approach is three-pronged:
- Lower the number of inappropriate prescriptions provided to women in the central Shenandoah Valley
- Provide support and education for women and healthcare providers
- Remove unneeded opioid medications from the community through drug take-back programs and other means
The new initiative is in addition to Sentara RMH Medical Center’s earlier work when Sentara IT linked access from Epic, our medical record system, to the Virginia Prescription Management Program, a resource providers consult to view a patient’s controlled-substance prescriptions. Crosschecks lead to identifying patients with addictions and referring them to treatment programs.
Healthcare providers will now also be able to refer patients to primary and secondary prevention programs funded by the OWH grant. Stanford’s Chronic Pain Self-Management Program will offer primary prevention, and Strength in Peers will provide secondary services. All partners in this new initiative will supply medication disposal kits that degrade unneeded or expired medications, rendering them unusable and environmentally safe for disposal.
Sentara Northern Virginia Medical Center
In November, Sentara Northern Virginia Medical Center’s emergency department hosted a two-hour, open-to-the-public opioid education event entitled STOP – Speaking out: Teaching Opioid Prevention.
The free seminar centered on exploring potentially lifesaving questions and topics:
- How did we get here?
- What are we going to do about it?
- Sentara safe opioid guidelines
- Non-opioid pain management alternatives
- How to inject Narcan, a drug that reverses opioid overdoses
- Personal protective equipment: protecting yourself and loved ones
- Sentara efforts to address the crisis
- Treatment options
Brochures about opioid abuse are stacked in the emergency room regularly, and partnerships are in place with area health departments. Through the collaborations, we’re distributing specialty medication wasting bags so that anyone needing them can have a free supply and promoting REVIVE!, a program that makes Narcan available to lay people and demonstrates its proper administration. We also hold biannual drug take-back events where we collect hundreds of pounds of medications, many of which are narcotics and opioids.
Sentara Norfolk General Hospital
A team in Norfolk is laying the groundwork for an initiative in 2018, with plans to partner with Eastern Virginia Medical School and community organizations. Our plan: Introduce a holistic system to lower the number of opioid-related hospital admissions and lengthy stays and formalize a pathway for patients to transition out of hospital care into safe, effective drug rehabilitation programs.
“Opioid addiction is a severe epidemic and we are working together to make a positive change in the community. The Hampton Roads Care Transitions Collaborative is a new team addressing the opioid crisis and the associated clinical and behavioral health issues. It’s an opportunity to focus on improving health in the community.”
Sherry Norquist, MSN, RN-BC, ACM, Director, ICM & Palliative Care, Sentara Norfolk General Hospital