Above / The Circle of Peace outside Linden Oaks along Osler Drive represents hope to respect every individual’s uniqueness. Linden Oaks’ Dr. Aaron Weiner hopes presidential declaration eases stigma of opioid addiction.
Aaron Weiner, PhD, Director, Addiction Services, Linden Oaks Behavioral Health, discusses the impact of President Trump’s declaration that the opioid crisis is a public health emergency.
The opioid epidemic continues to destroy lives every day. From 2010 to 2016, there has been an almost 500 percent increase in opioid use disorder, according to a recent study of Blue Cross and Blue Shield members.
On Thursday, Oct. 26, President Donald Trump declared the opioid epidemic a public health emergency.
Help rid the stigma
“While this declaration will help draw attention to the problem and provide some additional resources, the more powerful statement will be the way we talk about addiction every day,” says Aaron Weiner, PhD, Director, Addiction Services, Linden Oaks Behavioral Health. “That we’re not calling people addicts or junkies anymore. When we don’t stigmatize people for this.”
Dr. Weiner says the stigma surrounding opioid addiction kills a vast number of people. Many people taking pain pills are afraid to share that they’re addicted, worried about what their family or their physician will say. They keep the addiction a secret, which can prove deadly.
In 2016, Edward-Elmhurst Health launched an Opioid Task Force to curb opioid addiction. The Task Force operates in tandem with the Illinois Department of Public Health’s action plan, which consists of three pillars: Prevention, Treatment and Recovery, and Crisis Response.
Best practices advanced at Edward-Elmhurst
“We recently released a set of comprehensive prescribing guidelines for our physicians across all specialties, providing them with a best-practice model for how to prescribe narcotic medications for both acute and chronic pain,” says Dr. Weiner.
Edward-Elmhurst is asking its employed physicians to obtain training in how to prescribe opioid medication by July 1, 2018, and is providing in-person and online learning opportunities to meet this expectation.
In addition, Edward-Elmhurst has upgraded its electronic medical record system to integrate the Illinois Prescription Drug Monitoring Program, and designed a dosage calculator to help physicians better understand the amount of opioids they are prescribing if they opt to prescribe multiple, or stronger, medications, such as Norco and OxyContin.
Linden Oaks Behavioral Health
In support of treatment, Linden Oaks Behavioral Health, the psychiatric service provider for Edward-Elmhurst Health, has opened a long-term medication assisted therapy (MAT) clinic, adding to its existing continuum of behavioral health services.
“Recovery from opioid addiction is a long-term endeavor, and research tells us that the use of targeted medications, such as Suboxone, dramatically increases a patient’s chances of success,” says Dr. Weiner. “Expanding access to Suboxone and similar opioid maintenance medications is imperative, and we hope other healthcare institutions, as well as independent physicians will join us in offering these service to our patients in need.”
The MAT program is open to anyone who is motivated to stop using opioids. No physician referral is needed. Some people can begin their treatment journey at the clinic. Others use it as a step-down from a more intensive treatment level.
Overdoses from opioids do not discriminate by age / Narcan saves lives
“Lastly, if someone overdoses, we all must be ready to respond and save their life,” says Dr. Weiner. “Our emergency department records show that overdoses do not discriminate by age – both young and old come to Edward and Elmhurst Hospitals having overdosed, from heroin, fentanyl or prescription medications.”
Dr. Weiner says having naloxone, commonly referred to as Narcan, on hand in the event of an emergency can save someone’s life – it is the antidote to an overdose, averting death for 30-90 minutes, enough time for an ambulance to arrive.
For more information, visit www.eehealth.org/services/behavioral-health/specialties/addiction.
For immediate assistance and a free and confidential behavioral health assessment, call the Linden Oaks 24/7 Help Line at (630) 305-5027.
Story and photo of Dr. Weiner submitted by Keith Hartenberger, Public Information Officer, Edward-Elmhurst Health.