A grant from the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) will enable One Community Health (OCH) to take a groundbreaking approach to how it will combat prescription opioid and heroin use disorders and overdose in the community.
The grant for $222,832 was awarded in February 2016 and went into effect in March. With the funding, OCH is transforming how it prescribes opioid medications and also how it supports and treats patients who struggle with opiate use problems.
“The United States is facing a serious public health problem when it comes to use and overdose deaths related to both prescription opioids and heroin,” said Lucas O’Laughlin, LCSW, the newly hired behavioral health manager at One Community Health, a nonprofit federally qualified health center with locations in Hood River and The Dalles. “Over the past two decades, there has been a fairly consistent rise in overall medical prescribing rates and corresponding abuse of prescription opioids, with a sharp spike in overdose deaths within the past five years.”
According to the Oregon Health Authority, over 900,000 Oregonians (24 percent) received a prescription for an opioid in 2012. Every week, an average of three Oregonians die from prescription opioid overdose. In 2013, there were more overdose deaths from prescription opioids than from any other substance including alcohol, heroin, methamphetamines, and cocaine.
“We at One Community Health are working to address this epidemic with some innovative solutions,” O’Laughlin said. “Specifically, we are taking special consideration to the interconnected nature of the physical, mental, emotional, and social wellbeing of the people we serve.”
Among a number of things, OCH is taking action around:
Increasing screening and referrals for all substance use disorders
Specialized data tracking for program quality improvement
Improving opioid prescribing practices to mitigate risk factors related to opioid use disorders and overdose deaths
Expanding medication assisted treatment (MAT) services, utilizing Buprenorphine and Naloxone medications (e.g., Suboxone), which can be a critical factor in recovery from opiate use disorders
Implementing an integrated biopsychosocial approach to comprehensive treatment services
OCH is following an integrated model of health care delivery, treating the physical, mental, and emotional needs that people with struggling substance abuse commonly face. New services and programs will also play a key role in providing patient care.
For example, screening for systemic illnesses, such as HIV and Hepatitis C, will be possible through the support of this sizeable grant. In addition, OCH is hiring new staff, including one specialty MAT nurse case manager and two Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselors CADC. They will work with OCH medical providers and integrated care teams to effectively collaborate and manage the changes in policy and treatment.
, ensuring patients get the best support, education, resources, and care possible.
“This grant award is very significant for our community, particularly considering what it means for patients struggling with any kind of opiate use,” O’Laughlin said. “This service expansion will allow for a collaborative approach to substance use treatment that combines biomedical and behavioral health in a seamless system within the primary care setting, so patients only have to come to one location to receive comprehensive services. It addresses many of the barriers related to stigma, access, and collaboration that have previously existed in the health care field. For example, medical and mental health care have traditionally operated in separate ‘silos,’ each with their own unique professional cultures, underlying philosophies, and methods of care delivery. Now, we are supporting our patients in a totally different way, integrating care by creating teams of medical providers and other mental health and substance use experts who will work side-by-side with patients, guiding them through their journey, and hopefully, a successful recovery.”
In many ways, this grant will raise the quality of the patient experience and advance OCH’s mission to provide health and social justice of all community members. That said, Mid-Columbia Center for Living (MCCFL) currently has an excellent addictions program and has been a key OCH partner for years. While continuing to partner with MCCFL, this new grant allows OCH to increase service capacity to meet more of the community’s addictions needs.