New Safety Program Aims To Reduce Opioid Overdoses

By Jennifer Brice

LONE TREE, Colo. (CBS4)– Opioid deaths are a big problem in Colorado. Some 33,000 people die from opioid overdoses each year in the U.S. Colorado has the 12th highest rate of misuse and abuse of those prescriptions.

The Colorado Hospital Association has a new safety program that is now in eight local hospitals.

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(credit: CBS)

Pain is the number one reason people go to an emergency room and many doctors realize they need to change their habits when administering them.

The Emergency Department Medical Director, Dr. Adam Barkin, at Sky Ridge says four out of five heroin users begin their addiction with misuse of a pain medication.

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CBS4’s Jennifer Brice interviews Dr. Adam Barkin, ER Medical Director with Sky Ridge (credit: CBS)

“We as physicians, I think, had helped create this problem by prescribing opioids and ultimately we decided we need to be part of the solution,” said Barkin.

Sky Ridge is now one of eight emergency rooms training staff with new guidelines on treating pain in Colorado.

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Sky Ridge Medical Center (credit: CBS)

The Colorado Hospital Association (CHA) says the goal is to cut down on administering opioids inside ER’s and offer less addictive medicines.

Diane Rossi Mackay, with CHA, says the participating hospitals will focus in on a patient’s pain to treat it.

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Diane Rossi Mackay, with the Colorado Hospital Association (credit: CBS)

“You have a migraine; I’m going to treat that migraine. You have kidney stone; I am going to treat that kidney stone,” said Rossi Mackay.

She says that is a new and different approach in an ER, “It gives Physician’s choices now and opioids are like a second, a rescue drug.”

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Sky Ridge Medical Center (credit: CBS)

Doctors in participating hospitals will screen patients for addiction tendencies, offer alternatives to opioids first, and use the prescription drug monitoring system; a program that tracks patients who get prescriptions from multiple doctors.

The pilot hospitals include: Swedish Medical Center (Englewood), Boulder Community Health (BCH) and BCH Community Medical Center Emergency Room (Boulder), Gunnison Valley Health (Gunnison), Medical Center of the Rockies (Loveland) and UCHealth-Greeley Emergency & Surgery Center (Greeley), Poudre Valley Hospital & UCHealth Emergency Room – Harmony (Fort Collins), Sedgwick County Health Center (Julesburg), Sky Ridge Medical Center (Lone Tree) and Yampa Valley Medical Center (Steamboat Springs).

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Sky Ridge Medical Center (credit: CBS)

Barkin says ER’s historically have focused on giving shorter prescriptions, but even a small amount of opioids can create addiction in people who have the propensity for it.

“Even a short prescription of opioids can end up in the wrong person’s hand,” he adds.

Those hospitals chosen for the pilot program, the CHA says, are located in opioid addiction hotbeds. Those are regions of Colorado struggling with more opioid addictions than most.

Jennifer Brice is a reporter with CBS4 focusing on crime and courts. Follow her on Facebook or on Twitter @CBS4Jenn.

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