PITTSTON, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) – Prescription opioids are blamed for nearly 17,000 deaths a year. It has also cost the U.S. more than a trillion dollars since 2001. As Eyewitness News Reporter Mark Hiller explains, a conference held Tuesday aimed to coordinate better healthcare to curb the opioid crisis.
Dozens of regional health care professionals gathered at Pittston Memorial Library for one purpose: close gaps that prevent solving non-medical threats to patient wellness. AmeriHealth Caritas, a health care company that serves Pennsylvania and ten other states, held the conference which covered multiple topics — chief among them, the opioid crisis.
Besides reducing opioid prescriptions, AmeriHealth Caritas sees how increasing medication-assisted treatment in substance abuse disorder cases can make a difference. AmeriHealth Caritas Pennsylvania’s Chief Medical Officer Gus Geraci, MD said, “That reduces the amount of the number of people in the community who have a problem and reduces the number of people who potentially would die from using street drugs or overdosing on medications that they might otherwise have.”
Getting health care providers and case workers on the same page is considered vital for the patient’s best possible outcome. AmeriHealth Caritas Northeast Provider Network Manager Tina Drahus, MHA said, “We find out exactly what the patients’ or the members’ needs are and we ensure that they’re receiving that in the appropriate environment.”
While the problem of addiction is a physical dependence, the cause isn’t always physically-related. In many instances, opioid addiction is a result of behavioral issues. Getting mental health treatment in those cases is seen as a critical piece of the puzzle in solving the opioid crisis. It’s also an example of how keeping lines of communication open among healthcare professionals is so critical. “We’re starting to identify more social determinants of health and how that impacts their medical health,” said Trishia VanGorden, CMCN, CDE who is Manager of Care Coordination at Guthrie Clinic.
Ms. VanGorden was among the representatives from Guthrie Clinic in Sayre to make the roughly two hour drive to attend the conference. “It was important to us to understand the resources that are available to our patients so that we can wrap as many resources around them as possible,” she said. And coordinate better measures for better health care.
Tuesday marked AmeriHealth Caritas’ first such conference in northeastern Pennsylvania.