Miller Area Sheriff Louie Gregoire reported this week that there has been a significant rise in overdoses in the county this year compared to previous. According to officials, assistance will soon arrive in the Lake of the Ozarks region. The area will get a recovery program, perhaps as soon as early September. Health care professionals and officials who have worked hard to lower the number of fatal overdoses that spiked around 2013 are not surprised by the increase in overdoses.
According to Shawn Billings, vice president of substance use programming for the Missouri Hospital Association, the nonprofit Behavioral Health Network of Greater St. Louis developed initiatives in 2015 to assist in halting the rising tide of deadly overdoses. Engaging Patients in Care Coordination (EPICC), a program that links hospital emergency room patients with substance use treatment and grassroots recovery support, was launched in 2018.
As a result of efforts. In order to extend the EPICC program to further locations outside of St. Louis, the MHA, Behavioral Health Network, state Department of Mental Health, Missouri Institute for Mental Health, and other organizations joined together. The program made it to Columbia, Kansas City, and Springfield in 2019. It has 13 full-time employees in St. Louis, 4 in Columbia, 5 in Springfield, and 6 around Kansas City.
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Based on data on overdoses, the program’s planners decided where to expand, according to Billings. Capital Region Medical Center is a partner hospital in Jefferson City, and the program’s treatment providers include Compass Health Network, Phoenix Health Programs, and Preferred Family Healthcare, Inc. According to Billings, EPICC will next provide two full-time employees to Lake Regional Hospital, probably by the beginning of September.
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According to a 2020 EPICC status report, which can be found at https://www.mhanet.com/mhaimages/SQI/SUD/EPICC Status Report 2020.pdf, EPICC uses Missouri-certified peer specialists (who have histories of substance use disorders), known as recovery coaches, to encourage clients’ engagement with community treatment providers.
Patients hadn’t been visiting hospitals during the preceding 29 months, particularly with the epidemic, according to Billings. He declared, “Hospitals are just rock stars.” They are purposefully providing more considerate service in this area. According to him, hospitals are able to treat patients without making them run afoul of the law. Recovery coaches are sent out 24 hours a day, 7 days a week via special hotlines, creating instant connections to programmes for substance abuse and medication-assisted treatment.
They also handle case management for requirements related to housing, transportation, technological access, and other things. According to Billings, “We try to respond bedside within 60 minutes of referrals.” He gave the following scenario as an example: It’s Saturday at 2 a.m. and a member of the community was in danger of dying but was saved thanks to the administration of naloxone. He is delivered to the emergency room.
“I’m now stable. If deemed medically necessary, they will administer buprenorphine to treat my condition “explained Billings. Opioid physical dependence, including cravings and withdrawal symptoms, are lessened with buprenorphine. Unfortunately, patients cannot obtain “bridge prescriptions” to retain them until Monday, when pharmacies are open, if it is 2 a.m. on a Saturday.
Billings stated, “Recovery coaches are assisting with that prescription.” “The patient is going through withdrawal and has strong urges. They will return to the streets and perish if we don’t treat them. It eliminates those strong desires.” Patients who struggle with legal issues, transportation issues, food insecurity, unemployment, homelessness, and other issues are also helped by coaches.
All of it must be avoided, Billings declared. “We have flex money to assist with childcare, housing, and other care requirements that members of the community may have. This is a holistic strategy that begins inside the hospital’s walls.” He asserted that it requires knowledge of the fact that unmet demands can increase the risk of relapse. Other locations where the programme is getting ready to grow are in or close to the Bootheel, in addition to Lake Regional Hospital.
Stakeholders are collaborating with Missouri Highlands Health Care, a federally certified health facility, and Poplar Bluff Regional Hospital as planning is underway.