There’s a crisis hiding in plain sight – the abuse of opioid pain medications – and Ochsner is working to spotlight the challenge and confront it head on. According to the American Society of Addiction Medicine, 2 million Americans had substance use disorders involving prescription pain relievers or opiate medication in 2015. The problem can be found close to home, with Louisiana among the top 10 U.S. states for both opioid prescribing rates and deaths associated with opioids. Yet because these medications are often prescribed by doctors, patients may not fully grasp their habit-forming properties, and signs of dependence can go unnoticed for too long.
Effective solutions to this crisis have been in short supply – but new Ochsner initiatives create the prospect for better outcomes. In 2018, Ochsner Health System was awarded a $1.6 million grant by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for the Opioid Treatment and Recovery Through Safe Pain Management program. “We have reached a critical point in healthcare where we must change the way we deliver care to patients who suffer from non-cancer chronic pain,” explains Eboni Price-Haywood, MD, Director of the Ochsner Center for Outcomes and Health Services Research and the program’s principal investigator. “This grant will be allocated over a four-year period and will help safely manage pain in primary care settings across south Louisiana.” Our clinicians expect the data developed during the study to provide valuable insights by examining the role of technology, care team optimization and opioid prescribing behaviors.
The grant builds upon a number of improvements that Ochsner has made to better manage patients and their pain while mitigating risk. Among them: a task force with representation from multiple departments across our health system; programs to more appropriately manage pain and help restore a patient’s function; and a Gateway solution platform that integrates with a patient’s medical record to give physicians and pharmacists a more complete picture of prescription history.
Innovative pain management programs give patients the tools to recover while avoiding an overreliance on medications. Through Ochsner Baptist’s new Functional Restoration Program, the first of its kind in New Orleans, patients undergo three weeks of “boot camp”-style therapy that links them with experts across disciplines who develop a collaborative care program that is customized for each patient.
The program has expanded thanks to a generous donation by philanthropist Elizabeth Boh, a New Orleans native who has experienced chronic back pain herself as a result of numerous surgeries. Her gift will allow the Functional Restoration Program to move into a larger space and expand access to more patients – not just those who can afford the expense, which is entirely out-of-pocket.
According to Kate Lufkin, a social worker for the Functional Restoration Program, most participants have been able to reduce or stop their use of narcotic medication and are more empowered in their medical care. Elizabeth Boh’s gift allows them to “empower patients to lead more fulfilling lives.”