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South Country Health Alliance | Confronting Opioid Abuse in Morrison County

Confronting Opioid Abuse in Morrison County

South Country Health Alliance attended a community forum in Little Falls, presented by the Morrison County Prescription Drug Abuse Task Force to raise awareness about the group’s efforts to prevent prescription drug and opioid abuse in the community.

After identifying patterns of abuse and overuse of opioids, including prescription pain relievers and heroin, community partners formed a care team of doctors, pharmacists, and social workers to address the problem locally.

Through claims data, South Country Health Alliance revealed frequent Emergency Room visits for therapeutic drug monitoring and nearly 30 percent of patients in Morrison County with eight or more opioid prescriptions. With this data and additional support from South Country, the care team was awarded one of 12 State Innovation Model (SIM) two-year grants in January 2015, receiving $370,000 from the Minnesota Department of Health and Human Services to combat opioid abuse in Morrison County and surrounding communities.

The grant funding allowed the care team to expand and form the Morrison County Prescription Drug Abuse Task Force, a collaborative relationship between doctors and nurses from CHI St. Gabriel’s Health, social workers from Morrison County Public Health and Social Services, pharmacists, law enforcement, school district staff, and other community advocates. The task force has since implemented various strategies to reduce drug abuse and diversion, working closely with providers and patients to ensure safe and appropriate prescription dosages and transition to medication-assisted therapy when necessary.

The task force has already seen positive results:

  • With care team intervention, 38 percent of patients with long-term opioid use have been tapered off narcotics.
  • Medical Assistance pharmacy claims were reduced by $2.4 million in four months (January-April 2016) compared to the same period the previous year.
  • Drug monitoring is no longer within the top 20 emergency diagnoses.
  • More than half of the patients no longer using narcotics have been referred to community partners and resources to address other unmet social needs.

The early success of the task force has not only earned them the 2016 Rural Health Team award from the Minnesota Department of Health, but has also garnered state and nationwide attention for their innovative care model.

U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan (pictured above) was one of many elected officials who spoke on the legislative panel during the community forum on Monday, Oct. 3. Senator Amy Klobuchar, who was not able to attend, sent a video message recognizing the important work the task force is accomplishing locally in Morrison County. They both addressed how the initiative helped influence the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act, which was passed in July to fight the national opioid epidemic through prevention, treatment, recovery, law enforcement, criminal justice reform, and overdose reversal.

The forum also included panelists from community partners including Central Minnesota Violent Offender Task Force, CHI St. Gabriel’s Health, Coborn’s Pharmacy, Morrison County Public Health and Social Services, the Stand Up 4 U Coalition, Horizon Health, St. Otto’s Care Center, Morrison County Sheriff’s Department, Little Falls Community Schools, and Little Falls Police Department. A community member also shared his experience working with the Controlled Substance Care Team, whose intervention allowed him to become drug-free and improve his overall self-care, relationships, and quality of life.

South Country Health Alliance is pleased to be a partner in this initiative. South Country representatives, including CEO Leota Lind, Chief Medical Officer Dr. Brad Johnson, and Case Manager Ruth Boubin, continue to meet with the task force and provide claims data, which helps demonstrate measurable savings in total cost of care, including fewer hospitalizations, fewer ER visits, and less pharmaceutical expenses. We look forward to our continued partnership with the Morrison County Prescription Drug Abuse Task Force and hope to support similar initiatives in more of our communities in the future.

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