A Joint Opioid Task Force, led by the San Antonio Metropolitan Health District and University Health System, issued its final report to City Council and the Bexar County Hospital District Board of Managers in September, outlining an impressive number of accomplishments and recommendations for state officials. The group came together initially in August 2017 at the request of Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff and San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg. Co-chaired by Colleen Bridger, MD, director of Metro Health, and Bryan Alsip, MD, University Health System chief medical officer, the task force brought together public health experts, medical and pharmaceutical professionals, first responders, policymakers, public school district representatives, and social services agencies to develop and implement actions to address the opioid problem at the local level. In Texas, Bexar County ranks third in per capita rates of death from opioid overdoses and first in rates of Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome. Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome is a withdrawal syndrome of infants experienced after birth caused by in utero exposure to addictive drugs, frequently opioids. Through four workgroups, the Joint Opioid Task Force made significant progress to inform and to provide better resources to the community. To date, taskforce members have been awarded over $15 million in federal grants to serve Bexar County.
The Naloxone Workgroup include:
•Expanded access to naloxone for the treatment of overdoses. Naloxone is a medication used to block the effects of opioids, and has been shown to reduce rates of deaths due to opioid overdoses.
•The purchase of $1 million worth of naloxone.
•Distributed more than 25,000 doses of naloxone to both professional and community first responders.
•Collaborated with Adapt Pharma to create direct shipments of naloxone to authorized recipients.
•Partnered with San Antonio EMS and the San Antonio Council on Alcohol and Drug Awareness (SACADA) to conduct follow-up visits for overdose survivors to facilitate transition to recovery support services.
•Piloted, with the UT Health School of Nursing, a 24-Hour Opioid Drop-In Center in partnership with The Center for Health Care Services.
Held a train-the-trainer event for 70 individuals on how to train others on the administration of naloxone for suspected overdose. The Provider Education Workgroup:
•Created new avenues for education and resource development for clinical providers.
•Sponsored the first annual San Antonio Substance Use Symposium at UT Health San Antonio, providing 1.5-days of continuing medical education for physicians and community members, including four hours of Medication Assisted Treatment waiver training.
•Launched the “Get Waivered SA” website that allows clinical providers to better understand the opportunities for waiver training.
•Developed an opioid-related trainings curriculum map for clinical providers and students. Among the topics is use of the Texas Prescription Monitoring Program (PMP).
•Statewide, only about 45 percent of licensed physicians and 22 percent of licensed dentists are registered to use the PMP. This group continues to work to increase that number significantly before it becomes mandatory in September 2019.
The Community Education Workgroup:
•Educated the public on how to dispose of unused medications and promoted a better understanding of the risks of opioids, particularly among youth in our community. Established permanent drug drop boxes for unused medications at three police substations and nine Walgreen’s locations in Bexar County.
•Distributed Deterra® drug deactivation system packets at multiple community events. These packets allow individuals to safely deactivate and dispose of unused, expired or unneeded medications.
•Developed, with SACADA, youth prevention toolkits and videos to educate teens on the dangers of opioids. These were shared with local independent school districts and shown for weeks in Santikos movie theaters.
The Treatment Workgroup:
•Improved the ability to locate treatment services for substance abuse and addiction.
•Identified existing treatment providers and created a framework for determining which treatment options were evidence-based.
•With the Community Education Workgroup, developed an online resource map identifying locations and services for treatment of substance use disorder.
•Prepared recommendations for state legislative initiatives to increase the number of treatment locations statewide.