The Opioid Crisis
Partnerships are critical for LG Health as it works to reduce opioid abuse and address the heroin crisis, which claimed the lives of 165 Lancaster County residents in 2017 — a 40 percent increase over 2016.
Improving Access to Treatment
In 2017, Lancaster General Hospital began working with The RASE Project Lancaster to start a “warm handoff” program that ensures that patients who are treated for an opioid overdose in the Emergency Department have an opportunity to be led onto the pathway to long-term recovery.
RASE Recovery Specialists, individuals in long-term recovery who are credentialed through the Pennsylvania Certification Board, are on-call around the clock, responding to meet with patients in the Emergency Department who have overdosed and been revived by first responders with Naloxone. As the patient recuperates in the Emergency Department, a Recovery Specialist provides recovery support guidance to enhance the probability for the patient to enter into the appropriate level of treatment and, ultimately, into long-term recovery.
Between July 1 and the year’s end, LG Health recorded 120 referrals to RASE.
Joining Forces to Reduce Deaths from Heroin and Other Opioids
Lancaster County Joining Forces brings government officials, community coalitions, employers, treatment and medical providers, first responders and law enforcement to the same table to coordinate efforts to reduce deaths from opioids and heroin. The goal is to implement proven strategies throughout Lancaster County, and fill in gaps with needed services.
One recommended practice is to ensure that everyone in the community knows how and where to get help, if needed. In December, Joining Forces began saturating the county with more than 42,000, brochures and safety cards that spread a unified message about proper use, storage and disposal of drugs — and where to get help. Recognizing there was not a permanent drug take-back location in southern Lancaster County, Joining Forces began working with local officials in Quarryville to provide a secure drop-off location by the end of January 2018.
Uniting for a Cause
Health professionals also are working to improve the treatment of chronic pain while reducing dependency on opioids. In May, health-care entities representing eight counties launched the South Central PA Opioid Awareness Coalition.
Health systems in the region are working together to implement CDC guidelines for treating pain and promoting the safe use of opioids in emergency departments, primary-care offices, hospitals and community pharmacies.Efforts include:
- Sharing a unified message about identifying and avoiding behaviors that can lead to addiction and offering non-opioid alternatives for patients experiencing chronic pain.
- Adopting recommended CDC guidelines for prescribing opioids across the region.
- Educating first responders, schools, social-service agencies and employers about pain-management, mental-health services, and substance-abuse disorder services.
A leading sponsor of the coalition, LG Health representatives actively serve from primary care, Lancaster General Hospital’s Emergency Department, pharmacy and other health-system representatives.