Ohio Hospitals’ prescription for the Opioid crisis: Statewide collaboration

Characterized as the “crisis of our time,” the opioid epidemic facing the country—and particularly Ohio—is creating profound challenges for our communities and our health care system.

Communities and families of all backgrounds are affected, and the statistics are alarming. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report 91 Americans die every day from an opioid overdose.

In 2016, Ohio recorded more than 4,000 deaths due to unintentional overdose, with 60 percent involving opioids. Overall, nearly 26,000 opioid overdoses were tracked throughout the state. OHA’s most conservative projections show that, should these trends continue, Ohio will be managing over 90,000 opioid overdoses annually by 2025.

Faced with this data, the Ohio Hospital Association this year launched the Opioid Response Initiative. Leveraging OHA’s database of 35 million annual Ohio hospital encounters, our analysts identified communities and the hospitals disproportionately affected by the opioid epidemic. In September, leading experts from the highly impacted hospitals assembled to identify evidence-based interventions from local, regional and national sources and to share them statewide with our 220 member hospitals.

The efforts of the OHA Opioid Response Initiative, guided by national evidence and community input, are grouped into three focus areas: prevention, transition to treatment and recovery and harm reduction. Projects include helping transition patients to addiction treatment services, decreasing total opioid prescriptions (in line with state and national guidelines), promoting education around medication assisted therapy and distributing naloxone to high risk patients and families.

Beyond the work of the OHA Opioid Response Initiative, Ohio hospitals are investing in more local treatment facilities, support groups, crisis hotlines, improved access to mental health care and other support services. Cincinnati and Columbus have instituted hospital protocols around automatic treatment referrals and support. Cleveland area hospitals and community collaborators recently hired a regional director to build a shared program to address the specific needs of these patients.

Several hospitals, especially those in rural areas, are involved with local or county drug courts to get people diverted to treatment programs. In Dayton, a regional hospital collaboration is underway for a new Dayton Regional Crisis Stabilization Unit & Detox Center. MetroHealth Medical Center in Cleveland, for example, is opening both inpatient and outpatient facilities around addiction.

The reality is patients facing opiate tolerance and opiate dependence need long-term treatment. Licking Memorial Hospital has partnered with county mental health services and regional law enforcement to provide acute detox and stabilization services. Wayne Healthcare, through the Coalition for a Healthy Darke County, collaborates regularly with law enforcement and education leaders to address opioid addiction.

These are just a few of the dozens of examples of how hospitals and health systems across Ohio are saving lives and working to reverse the devastating trends in this crisis. OHA’s initiative makes sure what’s working is being shared with all hospitals.

Ohio hospital leaders understand the critical point the state and our nation are facing in the opioid crisis and know collaboration and looking beyond the walls of their facilities can truly heal communities.

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Mike Abrams is the president and CEO of the Ohio Hospital Association, which represents Ohio's 220 hospitals and 13 health systems. He leads a team of 60 associates, supports a 20-member Board of Trustees, serves on a variety of health care and hospital task forces and committees, and works with more than 2,000 members of seven OHA professional societies. Learn more at www.ohiohospitals.org.

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