TACKLING THE PROBLEM OF OPIOID ADDICTION IN OUR COMMUNITY
With the recognition that Bexar County leads the state in infant opioid withdrawal and has the third-highest rate of overdose deaths in Texas, Judge Nelson Wolff invited University Health System to join him in forming a Joint Opioid Task Force.
Dr. Bryan Alsip, executive vice president and chief medical officer of University Health System, was named co chair of the task force, along with Colleen Bridger, director of the San Antonio Metropolitan Health District.
“A vital part of this task force and its campaign will be to work with physicians, dentists, pharmacists and other providers who prescribe and fill opioid medications,” Dr. Alsip said at a news conference to kick off the task force’s first meeting in August 2017 at the Robert B. Green Campus.
The task force brings together public health experts, medical and pharmaceutical professionals, first responders, policymakers, educators and social service agencies. Judge Wolff charged them with four main objectives:
> To increase the use of overdose reversal drugs by first responders
> To increase the use of the state’s Physician Drug Monitoring Drug Program, a database of patients prescribed opioids
> To increase provider training on evidence-based prescribing and dispensing of opioids
> To provide community education on treatment options, the safe disposal of prescribed opioids, the effect of heroin and other opioids — particularly on adolescents
Dr. Alsip said the drug monitoring database is underused in Texas, with only about 45 percent of licensed physicians and 22 percent of licensed dentists signed up to use the tool.
“This one important tool can not only red-flag potential problems, but also opens the door to meaningful conversations between providers and patients about the safe and proper uses of these powerful drugs, and potential alternatives for managing pain.”
University Health System has been working in recent years with pregnant women with substance abuse disorders through its Mommies program, in partnership with the Center for Health Care Services. The program provides women with medication, treatment, counseling and specialized services aimed at recovery, a safe pregnancy and a healthy baby.