HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – Combatting Pennsylvania’s opioid crisis, Gov. Tom Wolf on Wednesday signed a legislative package to address the growing epidemic.
Some of the bills limit prescriptions doctors can write, which PinnacleHealth Medical Group has been doing for years.
PinnacleHealth says it has seen a lot of success in its program to both cut down on opioid prescriptions and monitor patients better. It was started back in 2014, about the same time they realized opioid addiction in our area reached crisis levels.
It can start with just a few pills, doctors say.
“A lot of patients start with an injury,” said Dr. Philip Moore, an addictionologist in Cumberland and Dauphin counties. “Their body becomes dependent on the medication and then when all of a sudden the medication is stopped, they feel very unwell.”
Then from pills, often to heroin.
Drug overdose deaths in Pennsylvania have been on the rise since the early ’90s. The numbers almost hit 3,000 overdoses in 2014, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the highest in the country.
“We didn’t think it was this close to home, but it was,” said Megan Cancilla, PinnacleHealth’s medication program director. “We found that we were having issues with our own providers, so we really wanted to take it into our own hands.”
Two years ago, PinnacleHealth started a program to look for alternative pain medications and reduce the opioid prescriptions their doctors write; now 20 percent fewer.
“Now that we know it is a problem and we have this big problem, we’re trying to get ahead of it now and prevent any additional patients from getting addicted,” Cancilla said.
The medical group also checks in on its patients who do need those types of drugs.
“You may be asked to do a urine drug screen,” Cancilla said. “You may be asked to come in for a random pill count.”
Those flagged as abusing or even just on the verge are referred treatment.
Moore says that’s how you avoid patients moving to street drugs.
“If you can intervene early before things develop, it’s a good thing,” he said.