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Regional Opportunities to Address the Opioid Crisis

As the Community Engagement Coordinator for the National Network of Libraries of Medicine, MidContinental Region (NNLM MCR), I am fortunate to have the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Region VIII Office in my hometown of Denver. Over the past 11 years with the NNLM MCR, I have worked with many of the regional operating division offices to provide staff training and collaborate on projects involving health information.

A few months ago at a data conference, I had a conversation with the Acting Regional Health Administrator for HHS Region VIII about the National Library of Medicine’s (NLM) recently released portal on Opiate Addiction and Treatments to help health professionals learn more about opioid-related topics. We talked more about the opioid crisis, and before parting ways she invited me to join the Region VIII Opioid Misuse Consultation Team. The purpose of the team is to engage and support Region VIII states and tribes response to prescription drug abuse and opioid addiction. While the HHS Regions don’t align precisely with the NNLM regions, Region VIII captures three of the six MCR states – Colorado, Utah and Wyoming. The other states included in Region VIII are Montana, North Dakota, and South Dakota. The team, with representatives from across HHS and the federal government has numerous consultation activities including:

  • Providing subject matter and programmatic expert consultation related to opioid misuse in areas like policy, finance, data collection and evaluation, clinical practice standards, and community education.
  • Identify and coordinate Federal, State, Tribal and local resources, grants, and technical assistance.
  • Facilitate regular educational conference calls between and among state, tribal, local and regional federal leadership.

In August 2017, the team hosted a two-day Opioid Summit, with over 200 attendees. The event provided attendees a forum to learn about available opioid prevention, treatment, and recover resources; identify potential opportunities for technical assistance; and, to identify potential collaborators and partners. Participants included state teams representing public and behavioral health, providers, advocacy, and legislative bodies. Each state in Region VIII provided updates on opioid programming, and several panels presented on effective strategies for prevention, clinical practice, recovery, and workforce development:

  • Prevention strategies include involving law enforcement, clinicians, policy makers, and effective data collection.
  • Clinical practice strategies include safe prescribing guidelines and education for prescribers; mentoring programs, integrated care and interdisciplinary care teams; opioid-specific information; and, addressing the availability, stigma, and reimbursement issues with medication assisted treatment options like methadone, buprenorphine, and suboxone.
  • Recovery strategies include addressing stigma at the community level, acknowledgement that relapse is a part of recovery, and developing a coordinated network of community-based resources (like the Recovery Oriented Systems Care (ROSC) model).
  • Workforce development strategies include scholarship and loan repayment, utilizing local pharmacies to increase awareness and education around prescription pain medications, and making naloxone more readily available.

In September 2017, the Team hosted a two-site event featuring a live stream from Washington D.C. for National Recovery Month titled Recovery, Prevention, and Hope: National Experts on Opioids and Other Addictions Equip Faith and Community Leaders. The live stream event held at NNLM MCR Partner Library, the Health Sciences Library University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, was followed by a panel of experts discussing local response to the opioid crisis and addressing audience questions. The panel presentation was streamed to participants at the Byron Rogers Federal Building in downtown Denver. In total there were 50 participants.

It has been really interesting to learn what is going on in states I wouldn’t normally interact deeply with. I have learned that while each state in Region VIII has unique challenges addressing the opioid crisis, there are many shared needs: public education articulating risk of opioid misuse and addiction, the ability to expand naloxone (Narcan) availability to users and first responders in rural and urban areas; and the need for prescriber education and guideline awareness. I look forward to supporting and sharing the opioid work being done on a federal and regional level with our NNLM MCR members.

I would also like to learn how NNLM MCR member institutions and organizations are addressing the opioid epidemic in the communities served. Please feel free to email me at dana.abbey@ucdenver.edu.

-D. Abbey, Colorado/Community Engagement Coordinator

Opioid Resources:

CDC Guideline for Prescribing Opioids

CDC Opioid Overdose: Information for Patients

MedlinePlus: Opioid Abuse

National Library of Medicine (NLM) portal on Opiate Addiction and Treatment with links to help health professionals learn more about opioid-related topics

SAHMSA Opioid Resources for Patients and Providers

The MidContinental Messenger is published quarterly by the Network of the National Library of Medicine MidContinental Region

Spencer S. Eccles Health Sciences Library
University of Utah
10 North 1900 East, Building 589
Salt Lake City, Utah 84112-5890

Editor: Suzanne Sawyer, Project Coordinator
(801) 587-3487

This project has been funded in whole or in part with Federal funds from the Department of Health and Human Services, National Institutes of Health, National Library of Medicine, under cooperative agreement number UG4LM012344 with the University of Utah Spencer S. Eccles Health Sciences Library.

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