Exploring the Nation’s Ongoing Opioid Crisis at Maine QC 2016

Across the country, a growing number of states are looking for ways to counter the escalating health crisis of opioid abuse and addiction. With the problem intensifying in Northern New England, health researchers and policymakers in the region are scrambling to find a proven approach to fight the epidemic. Their findings so far will be the focus of an upcoming breakout session at this spring’s Maine Quality Counts Conference (April 6 in Augusta).

The session, which will focus on ongoing efforts in both Maine and Vermont, will be led by Christopher Pezzullo, DO (Chief Health Officer of the State of Maine’s Department of Health and Human Services), Beth Tanzman, MSW (Assistant Director of the Vermont Blueprint for Health), and Mary Kate Mohlman, MS, PhD (Health Services Researcher at Blueprint), with support from Melanie Pinette, MEM, Health Data Analyst.

Dr. Pezzullo will kick off the breakout session with a brief national overview of the growing epidemic of opioid addiction and overdose deaths before zeroing in on Maine’s emerging crisis and the recent formation of three statewide task forces designed to fight the increased prevalence of heroin use in the state. Dr. Pezzullo will also discuss Maine DHHS’s current substance abuse treatment initiatives, prescription monitoring program, promotion of academic detailing trainings, and pain management protocols.

Leaders from the Vermont Blueprint for Health will build on Dr. Pezzullo’s findings with a discussion of their Health Home initiative, drilling down into the effort to tackle the opioid crisis using a treatment model that effectively bridges the gap between clinical and community settings by using a system of “hubs” (i.e., regional specialty addiction treatment centers) and “spokes” (i.e., teams of healthcare professionals).

Tanzman and Dr. Mohlman, will also explore their Hub & Spoke program’s use of medication-assisted therapy (MAT) to combat opioid abuse. Under this program, each patient undergoing MAT has access to an established physician-led patient-centered medical home, a single MAT prescriber, a pharmacy home, Community Health Team primary care supports, and additional Hub & Spoke nurses and clinicians with expertise in opioid addiction treatment. Dr. Mohlman, with Pinette, will highlight some of the methods, measures, and data visualizations used to support the initiative’s recent analyses.

The breakout session will also include plenty of time for participant engagement, with Dr. Pezzullo moderating a discussion and open Q&A session. Panelists and QC participants will consider lessons learned and potential next steps for Maine in confronting the opioid epidemic. The session will be part of the broader conversation at this year’s QC conference – “Taking It to the Streets: Building Clinical & Community Connections” – which will explore how those involved in the healthcare industry can work together to build clinical and community partnerships to improve the health of all Maine people. Sign up here!