Penn State Health grows efforts to combat opioid crisis

Penn State Health leaders are using education as a tool to end the opioid crisis.

More than 15,000 opioid overdose-related emergency room visits have occurred in Pennsylvania hospitals since the start of 2018, according to data collected in response to Gov. Tom Wolf’s Opioid Disaster Declaration. Penn State Health is taking steps to equip its staff and trainees with strategies to treat those patients.

Grant funds used to train residents in treating opioid use disorder

Penn State College of Medicine received one of five Association of American Medical Colleges Opioid Education Challenge Grants on Aug. 21. Grantees will develop tools and resources to increase faculty proficiency in the areas of pain management, substance use disorders, medication-assisted treatment, safe prescribing practices and addressing stigma.

Drs. Jarrett Sell and Alexis Reedy-Cooper of the Family and Community Medicine Residency Program at the College of Medicine were awarded $25,000 to develop a medication-assisted treatment curriculum, in which prescription medications are used to reduce the risk of relapse and death from opioid use disorder. This grant will support the development of two residency-based treatment clinics for resident experiential learning and provide outpatient opioid treatment in a primary care setting.

Sell said that treatment for opioid use disorder doesn’t just happen in rehabilitation centers.

“Our residents should be prepared to see this in primary care. If they can observe medication-assisted treatment integrated into primary care practice, they will be more likely to have the skills they need to treat opioid use disorder.”

Penn State Health leaders take part in state opioid conference

Three Penn State Health staff members attended The Hospital and Health System Association of Pennsylvania’s Opioid Learning Action Network kickoff on Aug. 20 in Harrisburg. The two-year project aims to bring together hospital leaders and substance use disorder recovery specialists from across the commonwealth to discuss evidence-based practices to prevent overdoses and help patients recover.

Penn State Health participants included:

  • Jennifer Jones-Lapp, director, inpatient services, Penn State Health St. Joseph Medical Center
  • Sharon Strohecker, vice president, clinical operations and chief nursing officer, St. Joseph Medical Center
  • Eleanor Dunham, medical director, Emergency Department, Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center

The kickoff conference featured speakers and workgroups that encouraged collaboration and sharing of lessons learned about the barriers to treatment and best ways to help patients and families recover. More than 100 hospitals across Pennsylvania have signed up to participate in the Opioid Learning Action Network.

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