Opioid crisis requires a multi-pronged approach

This issue’s special focus on addiction and its local impacts provides a minimal view of the problem’s scope, and mentions a few services and options available to addicts and their families. But it only scratches the surface.

People on the front lines — medical professionals in particular — feel the same frustration as the community at large, perhaps in some ways more so.

At Thibodaux Regional Medical Center, says marketing director Toni Martinez, the commitment to improving health and wellness includes working to address the addiction issue.

“Through the work of a multidisciplinary team involving physicians, nurses, pharmacists and others, we have established policies and protocols to assist in minimizing the use of opioids,” she said. “For example, if a patient is prescribed opioid medication in the Emergency Room, they are only given a 3-day supply which allows them time to see their primary care physician who manages their care. Clinicians document when pain medications are prescribed and have access to a database which shows patient usage and frequency of obtaining opioid prescriptions. Thibodaux Regional is also pursuing educational opportunities regarding the dangers of opioid for the public and others.”

Phyllis Peoples, CEO at Terrebonne General Medical Center, says she and her staff are well aware of the problem, and the increased numbers of people showing up with overdoses to the emergency department.

“Often times when a person finds themselves in an emergency department the situation may be too progressed,” she said. “However, our caring doctors and staff at TGMC are working diligently with our community partners to provide support for patients and their families who are presenting to our emergency department with this diagnosis.”

Ochsner Health Systems runs two hospitals in the local area, Leonard J. Chabert Medical Center and Ochsner St. Anne Hospital. Spokeswoman Katherine Faquier said Ochsner is taking a pro-active approach in communities it serves.

“Education of patients and healthcare providers, along with improving access to comprehensive pain management programs, are key to becoming a part of the solution,” she said. “Ochsner’s Opioid Stewardship Program is a task force comprised of multiple departments across the system with the goal of improving efficiencies that may have contributed to the nationwide opioid crisis, treating patients who already suffer from opioid dependency and implementing better treatment options for those suffering from chronic pain.”

Their efforts include education of providers, including opioid prescription guidelines and training. Education of patients, including resources explaining opioid risk, an explanation of prescription reduction protocols and pain management referrals, is part of the effort as well. A risk assessment done by Ochsner identifies addiction factors and helps doctors to know with more certainty when opioids are involved.

“Ochsner also offers patients suffering from chronic pain care at the Functional Restoration Program at Ochsner Baptist,” Faquier said. “The comprehensive, three-week program includes physical and occupational therapy, personalized counseling and educational classes on pain management, nutrition and relaxation techniques. A team of pain medicine and pain psychiatry specialists, physical and occupational therapists, social workers and nutrition coaches work with each patient to provide long-term management and improvement for chronic pain.”

Certainly, the medical community has given strong indications that its members are aware and trying to formulate ways they can help.

We applaud and support their efforts at coping with the crisis and encourage them to find more ways that our communities can get help.

Likewise, we support law enforcement’s efforts to take illicit drugs off the streets.

Terrebonne Parish is considering entering on-going litigation against pharmaceutical companies alleged to have been irresponsible in their marketing and distribution. If indeed there is a windfall in the offing then it could support local efforts to help stem the crisis.

At all times, however, we maintain that the focus must be on the medical end as much as possible. We encourage our hospitals to seek grants that will help with community outreach, that could result in direct contact with users before they end up in the emergency room. A regional treatment center could be one method of meeting a crisis that isn’t going away anytime soon.

We wish all those seeking solutions well, secure in the knowledge that one size does not fit all. We urge those struggling with addiction to consider seeking assistance, before the arrest or before the frantic visit to an emergency room.

Although means for help is sparse it is still exists in some form or another. Others are doing what they can to offer help. Individuals must do what they can to helpl themselves.