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Community Steps Up Fight Against Opioids

Posted by Joe Antle on May 13, 2019 1:55 PM EDT
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The Hampton Roads Opioid Working Group is playing an important role in the regional fight against opioids by.....

....focusing on its singular goal of reducing deaths through coordinated, community-wide solutions targeting both the supply of and demand for opioids in Hampton Roads.

A recent op-ed article that was published in the May 11th edition of The Virginian-Pilot was written by two members of the Hampton Roads Opioid Working Group.  It was a well-written piece, full of optimism and a call for collective action across all members of the regional community.  The article's authors were John F. Butler who is the assistant U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, Norfolk Division and Christina F. Pullen, the public affairs officer for the FBI Norfolk Field Office.

It was the first I had read about the three-year-old effort and its use of cross-community collaboration and resource leverage.  But it placed a spotlight on innovative and effective efforts such as the PROUD initiative which grew out of the efforts of leaders from Chesapeake Regional Healthcare who developed an innovative program designed to help bridge the gap between a patient's resolve and his or her access to treatment.  The program has been successful and as reported by The Virginian-Pilot, other healthcare systems in the region appear to be putting the program on their services agenda.

Here's a snippet that the authors wrote for how the program works.  The patients are treated with Suboxone in the Emergency Department and they are provided with a short-term prescription, and then an appointment with an addiction recovery provider is scheduled within 72 hours of the patient's discharge.  According to co-authors Butler and Pullen, studies have shown that this rapid access to evidence-based care can cut the mortality rate by 50%.  This intervention will certainly continue to save many lives and put people on the road to recovery.

The two authors make a strong case that as the community has expanded its understanding of opioid use disorder (OUD) as a brain disease rather than it is the result of weak moral character or poor willpower.  Now the focus must be on thinking more creatively for innovative solutions that can address the large population base as a whole and begin to make meaningful and sustainable reductions in addiction's impact and in reducing its growth through prevention and early intervention.

Similar to a number of blog posts that the three of us have posted on this platform in the past, Foster and Pullen push the idea of community-based awareness and prevention efforts as being key components in solving the national opioid crisis.  They argue that to fight the epidemic effectively, everyone must play a role.

Parents must become comfortable having conversations with their kids about the dangers of these drugs.  Schools, universities, congregations, and faith-based groups must be willing to talk openly and honestly about the problem.  Even sports coaches need to become advocates for coaching their proteges against the dangers of unsupervised use of painkillers which can lead to addiction in many cases.

The Hampton Roads Opioid Working Group is hosting a meeting and inviting members of all sectors of the community to their next meeting at 10:00 am on Thursday, May 23rd at the Chrysler Museum of Art in Norfolk.  For additional information refer to the calendar Tab on this platform or click on the following link: https://hamptonroadscares.org/modify/healthetogether-solutions-group-norfolk-virginia/event/449?view=day.

I plan to go to the event and hope to see you there!

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While I will not be able to attend the May 23rd meeting of the Hampton Roads Opioid Working Group, I do look forward to reading about it in one of Joe's future blog posts. It is gratifying to read that such a group has been in place for three years and is making progress, bit by bit. The key idea is how to take such an effort and expand it exponentially. Is there an obvious role that media can play-how about folks in the private sector? As a benefits consultant, I ask myself if there is a worthwhile play for innovating around a benefits offering, or can there be a role employee volunteers can somehow play in such efforts? Is EVMS and it's efforts with the Brock Institute to stimulate volunteerism among students be pushed ahead in support of such efforts that are already in place. Look forward to hearing and reading more about this effort.

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Chip Block

8 months ago

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