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New president of Northern Kentucky Med Society pledges more physician help for heroin crisis
The new president of the Northern Kentucky Medical Society says he will ask the Society’s physicians to take a more active role in combating the region’s heroin addiction crisis.
“My new role starts in January,” Dr. Mark A. Schroer wrote in a guest column for the Cincinnati Enquirer newspaper. “I have been thinking about priorities and the places where our group can make an impact.
“When I think about the challenges our community must face, and the places where physicians can make the most difference simply by giving of their time, the best place for us to start is in addressing the effects of heroin. Heroin has been hitting Northern Kentucky like a Class 5 hurricane and the local rescue team needs backup.”
Dr. Schroer’s medical practice is in Newport, KY, just across the Ohio River from Cincinnati, OH. Ohio is on the northern side of the Ohio River, and the region south of the river, although not technically Cincinnati, is heavily urban and essentially part of the city. Like all American cities it’s rife with drugs and crime – especially heroin.
Northern Kentucky overdoses soaring
According to a January ’16 story in the Enquirer, heroin overdoses are soaring in Northern Kentucky. At the region’s St. Elizabeth hospital ERs, there were 1,168 cases of overdose in 2015 (reversed using the drug naloxone) compared with 745 the year before. Monthly cases jumped from an average of 62 a month in 2014 to 97 a month in 2015. The statistics show a 56.7 percent increase from 2014 to 2015, but over the past 5 years they have quadrupled.
“We’re definitely feeling the impact, but I don’t think, after what we’ve seen before, we were surprised,” said Ashel Kruetzkamp, nurse manager for St. Elizabeth Edgewood emergency department. “We know that there’s a lot to be done in the community.”
It appears that more and more people are using heroin, based on who the hospital sees coming into the ER. New heroin users arrive every day in the emergency rooms, Kruetzkamp said.
“We wish we could do more,” she said. “We treat them. We give them resources. But then we are putting them back out in the community. You feel a little hopeless.”
Dr. Schroer’s program for change
“My father was a physician. When he was most active, doctors had fewer clinical tools but were more connected to their patients and their communities.
“Today we are getting better at tracking the benefits of medical advancements, but I have noticed a tendency to lose track of the other elements of a doctor’s life, our attachment to the people we serve. I want to re-establish a proper sense of balance, so I will use my time as president of the Northern Kentucky Medical Society to foster physician involvement in the community.”
The doctor lists the details of what he thinks needs to be accomplished to really make a difference.
Briefly, Dr. Schroer suggests:
- Protect Medicaid and use it correctly. Medicaid is the lifeline that protects vulnerable populations, a critical resource to those affected by heroin.
- Integrate addiction care with primary care. With appropriate training, many more of us can learn to prescribe Suboxone and Vivitrol to help our patients. Every one of us can distribute naloxone to people at risk of overdose.
- Build teams to support our patients. We need therapists and counselors, and a well-run “wrap around” service made up of volunteers, peer support specialists and case managers integrated with our institutions to support our patients and their families.
- Invest in stabilization and detox. Currently, there are bottlenecks around detox and safety in times of crisis. Our region needs Medicaid-funded crisis stabilization facilities that use evidence-based practice and are large enough to accommodate all who need detox or protection from harm.
We should all take note
Dr. Schroer’s program offers good ideas for any jurisdiction to adopt. We hope other medical societies across the country take notice and make the same commitment.
Here at Novus, we’re deeply committed to providing the most effective drug detox available anywhere. We don’t offer “one size fits all” type of detox. Our detox programs are tailored to the specific needs of each and every patient. And our record of success is enviable.
Don’t hesitate to call us and get the help you need. We will answer your questions and make sure you find the absolute best care for you or your loved one.
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