U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell on Thursday announced a three-pronged initiative — and $133 million in new funding — to combat rampant opioid and heroin abuse.
Dr. Andy Mendenhall, medical director of Hazelden at Beaverton, thinks the strategy could work.
“I’m really excited, and as an agency, we’re excited to see additional resources being applied to combat the epidemic,” Mendenhall said.
The strategy Burwell outlined focuses on three areas:
- Providing training and educational resources, including updated prescriber guidelines, to help providers make informed decisions and reduce the over-prescribing of opioid painkillers.
- Increasing use of naloxone, a life-saving drug that can reverse an overdose in progress (and has likely saved many lives in the Portland area).
- Expanding the use of medication-assisted treatment, which combines a drug such as Suboxone with counseling and behavior therapies.
Among all drug overdose deaths in the U.S. in 2013, about 37 percent involved prescription opioids. Oregon is No. 1 in the nation in the nonmedical use of prescription opioids. More than 6 percent of Oregon adults take medications, mostly opioids, for nonmedical reasons.
Mendenhall said the education piece of Burwell’s initiative is especially important, and may even net tangible results in the next 18 months.
“It’s not just about doctors prescribing less medication,” he said. “It’s about providing clinicians within the health care system with an understanding of how these medications transform in the utilization of the patient. All become therapeutically dependent.”
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