Health officials unveil community-wide response plan to combat opioid epidemic

Addiction Stops Here

80 people died from opioid overdose in East Baton Rouge Parish so far this year. Back in March, Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome called on the Capital Area Behavioral Health Collaborative to address this problem through a community-wide comprehensive plan. 

After months of research and calling on experts from a variety of fields, the Capital Area Behavioral Health Collaborative unveiled the Community-Wide Response Plan to the Opioid Epidemic Wednesday.

The plan breaks down addiction reduction techniques through nine categories.

1- Understanding addiction and reducing stigma

The main finding of this section is the importance of treating addiction like the chronic disease it is.

“It needs to be met with a public health response,” CAHS Addiction Recovery Services Program Director Jan Laughinghouse said.

The study found that, when compared to individuals with less stigmatized illnesses, people with substance abuse disorders are less likely to acknowledge their illness and less likely to seek treatment because of the fear of rejection and being judged. 

The group recommends promoting education, raising awareness about risk factors and providing training to treatment providers on the impact of stigma. 

2- Prevention services

In 2016, one Louisiana resident died every 29 hours from an opioid related overdose. One in four people who receive prescription opioids in primary care settings struggle with addiction. Among people who misuse prescription pain relievers, more than 50 percent get them from friends and relatives.

3- Law enforcement, criminal justice reform and corrections

The study shows opioid distribution laced with the deadly fentanyl is escalating in the greater Baton Rouge region. Coroner Beau Clark said fentanyl was to blame for 22 opioid overdose deaths in East Baton Rouge Parish so far in 2018. The study finds crime labs are continuously having to identify new substances and synthetic opioids.

Many departments now carry naloxone, the overdose reversal drug to save lives.

Some proposed solutions include longer jail time for distribution, add more drug take-back days and utilizing first responders as portals to access to care.

4- Prescribing practices

The report revealed that in 2016, Louisiana had the fifth highest opioid prescription-per-capita rate in the U.S. In fact, there were more prescriptions than people.

In 2017, three new laws were enacted by the Louisiana Legislature. Act 76 works to prevent “prescription shopping” with a strengthened Prescription Monitoring Program database. Act 88 created a 13-member Advisory Council on Heroin and Opioid Prevention and Education. Act 82 limited the first-time prescriptions of opioids to seven-day supplies. 

The group is pushing to decrease the number of pills prescribed from seven days to three to five days. The report also encourages prescribers to offer alternatives to opioids for pain treatment.

5- Harm reduction: overdose reversal and syringe access

The response plan promotes educating the public about reversal techniques like naloxone. It also encourages emergency departments to refer people to behavioral health treatment providers.

6- Pain management

The report reveals an estimated 100 million Americans live with some degree of serious or chronic pain. Healthcare providers are now seeking new approaches for long-term pain with a combination of treatments. The report said exercise, physical therapy and meditation have proven benefits in the areas of function, and coping with pain. 

Chapter 7- Detoxification, medication-assisted treatment and supportive counseling

Healthcare officials leading Wednesday’s meeting said detoxification is not treatment, and, in fact, can increase the risk of fatal overdose if individuals are not referred to follow-up treatment, due to decreased tolerance after a period of abstinence from opioids. 

The report promotes medication-assisted treatment. 

Chapter 8- Treatment of pregnant women and neonatal abstinence syndrome

In Louisiana in 2015, there was an estimated 384 newborns that were diagnosed with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome. The report promotes improving public knowledge of the risks associated with maternal opioid use and reinforce the role of primary care providers in preventing maternal opioid use.

Chapter 9- Recovery services and community supports

The plan suggests identifying existing recovery support services, establishing recovery coaches and establishing opportunities for connectedness within the community.

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