A summit regarding addiction in rural Oklahoma was held Thursday in Durant at the Donald W. Reynolds Community Center & Library to examine the scope of the opioid abuse epidemic and potential solutions to the mounting problem. Organized by OSU Center for Health Sciences, top law enforcement and policy leaders in Oklahoma attended the summit including Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter, and representatives from the Oklahoma State Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse, the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics, Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust, and several city and state elected officials to discuss barriers to treatment and public policy related to the addictive diseases.
“Addiction strikes at the core of Oklahoma families severely impacting their health, finances and futures,” noted Kayse Shrum, D.O., President, OSU Center for Health Sciences and Dean, OSU College of Osteopathic Medicine. “Most people fall into opioid abuse innocently after an injury or disorder requiring pain management options. An alarming number of these patients quickly move from therapeutic drug use to opioid abuse and addiction. As an academic health center, OSU understands the leadership role needed to better educate and equip healthcare providers and their patients. Our goal for this summit is to spark the dialogue and education needed to put rural Oklahoma on a course towards healing and away from addiction.
“The state of Oklahoma, like much of the nation, is in a crisis because of the opioid epidemic,” said Attorney General Mike Hunter. “I applaud the OSU Health Sciences Center for being a leader in helping us find a solution by investing in new research and strategies for prevention and treatment.”
Drug abuse is the leading cause of accidental death in America and opioids have surpassed heroin use as the most abused and lethal drug.
Oklahoma has the tenth highest drug overdose death rate in the nation, and opioid abuse is the primary reason why. In fact, the state ranks as the highest for nonmedical use of prescription painkillers. Opioids are the most common drug involved in overdose deaths. Every week, 14 Oklahomans die because of a drug overdose and 8 of those deaths are due to opioids.
The first session was moderated by Dr. Shrum on the topic of Addiction Treatment: access to health services barriers, implications and solutions. The second session was hosted by Attorney General Mike Hunter and included a panel of local and state law enforcement officials addressing the opioid epidemic from a public policy point of view. Local participants included Todd Hallmark, Choctaw Nation Health Services Executive Director of health Operations, Chris Smith, Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs Control Agent in Charge, Durant Mayor Jerry Tomlinson and Antonio Lopez, D.O., Choctaw National Health Services physician.
“OSU Center for Health Sciences has taken the lead in bringing addictive treatment solutions to the heart of the opioid epidemic in Oklahoma with our Project ECHO Addiction line of services,” noted Jason Beaman, D.O., Chair, OSU-CHS Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Science. “Project ECHO uses the latest telecommunication technology to allow physicians and healthcare providers in rural Oklahoma to learn the latest information in the field of addiction medicine directly from medical, neuroscience and neuropharmacological specialists on our Tulsa campus. A weekly teleconference passes on best practices in addiction medicine to rural providers on the frontline of the drug abuse crisis who can then treat their patient’s right in their hometown.”
The STOP OPIOID addiction program includes five action steps:
1. Avoid opioids – according to the Centers for Disease Control, there are safer approaches that may be more effective for pain management. Ask your doctor for these alternatives.
2. Never share – sharing opioid medication is illegal and may be putting someone on a dangerous path.
3. Lock it up– keep pain medications locked away to prevent theft and child poisoning. Don’t keep leftover pills – dispose of them safely at a local medication drop box.
4. Reach out – addiction is a disease that needs treatment. Talk to your kids about the dangers. Talk to friends who may be struggling. Talk to a loved one if you need help. Call 211 for help!
5. Carry the drug naloxone – if you or someone you know is taking opioids to reverse the deadly effects of narcotics and know the signs of an emergency overdose.