The opioid epidemic is continuing to devastate the nation, and as the 12th highest ranked in the US for opioid misuse, Colorado is consistently working on viable resolutions. From state government to prescribers, Colorado rehabs to family members, Coloradans are getting involved in saving and serving their own.
Most recently, the Colorado Hospital Association (CHA) has launched a six-month opioid program and study that will include eight hospitals and three free-standing emergency rooms. Their objective is to reduce the administration of opioids by ER clinicians by 15 percent in hopes of averting the overall misuse of pain medications.
Opioids in the Emergency Room
For the past few decades, the practice of administering opioids as the first line of treatment for any number of pain diagnoses was commonplace in emergency rooms. Colorado doctors became leery, when in recent years, a large amount of emergency room patients were being admitted because of opioid-related concerns. According to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE), from 2011 to 2013, Coloradans ages 18-25 made more than twice as many trips to emergency departments due to prescription painkillers as the general population.
Additional data about opioid misuse exposed a stark truth. There have been 10,552 drug overdose deaths among Colorado residents from 2000-2015, with rates rising in almost every year, the CDPHE also found. Colorado’s rate of drug overdose has also been significantly and consistently higher than the national rate. Furthermore, unintentional drug poisoning deaths in the state jumped almost 82 percent from 2004 to 2013. These alarming developments made it clear that re-thinking treatment options is a matter of urgency.
The Colorado Opioid Safety Collaborative
CHA and its partners came together to form the Colorado Opioid Safety Collaborative. They are overseeing the program, which involves the use of the CO-ACEP 2017 Opioid Prescribing and Treatment Guidelines in participation ERs and hospitals. These guidelines encourage physicians to first analyze the type of pain patients are experiencing and treat them using alternatives to opioids (ALTOs) specific to their diagnoses. For example, Haldol, a medication historically used for sedation, has been found to be effective with severe headaches and pain conditions that involve vomiting. Examination and proper ministration in this way is more time consuming than simply prescribing an opioid, but is effective in impeding unnecessary opioid consumption.
Another aspect of the program is in the handling of patients who currently have an opioid addiction. Instead of initially directing these patients to a Colorado rehab clinic, hospital and ER physicians will start patients on a medication-assisted therapy. The Colorado Health Institute has found that medication-assisted therapy reduces the potential for relapse but is also far under-utilized. The three medications currently approved for treating opioid addiction are methadone, buprenorphine and naltrexone.
Who Is Involved in the Program?
Some of the current participants of the program include:
- Swedish Medical Center in Englewood
- Medical Center of the Rockies in Loveland
- Boulder Community Health and Boulder Community Medical Center Emergency Room in Boulder
- Gunnison Valley Health in Gunnison
- Yampa Valley Medical Center in Steamboat Springs
- UCHealth-Greeley Emergency & Surgery Center in Greeley
- Sedgwick County Health Center in Julesburg
- Poudre Valley Hospital & UCHealth Emergency Room – Harmony in Fort Collins
- Sky Ridge Medical Center in Lone Tree
This program is one of the most progressive opioid reduction initiatives in the country and its effects are already far-reaching. According to Diane Rossi McKay of CHA, the program’s methodology is already in demand by other hospitals and associations across the country. While nationwide acceptance is still a while off, halfway through the program, the Colorado Hospital Association will ask its other member hospitals to participate. While not a part of this study, other Colorado hospitals have already introduced new pain management practices to help address the epidemic.
If you are struggling with addiction in Colorado, we are here to help. Contact us to learn more about our holistic treatment programs designed to treat the whole person. Your journey to wellness can start today.