Hooked: Search for solutions

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SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WAND)- In September, the Illinois Department of Public Health issued a statewide action plan for addressing the opioid crisis.

The multi-pronged plan aims to reduce the number of projected deaths by a third, from around 2,700 to around 1,800.

We wanted to be sure that we set a goal that was ambitious but still attainable,” said IDPH Director Dr. Nirav D. Shah. “We do think the goal of reducing deaths by a third is attainable. To be sure it's one that's ambitious."

The action plan calls for improvements in prescribing of prescription painkillers, citing research that suggests longer prescriptions lead to increased likelihood of addiction. To that end, state officials are considering expanded prescription monitoring.

There are other notifications we're looking at deploying that just say 'Hey, Dr. Smith, we've taken a look at your last 3 weeks or last 3 months of prescribing, and we just want you to know that it's a little higher than your peers’” Shah explained. Notifications of that type, we find, can pretty quickly change behavior on the part of physicians.

Shah said the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulations has developed draft guidelines for prescribing painkillers, but those guidelines must still be approved by a committee of the state General Assembly.

Meanwhile, medical schools in the state are also working to train the next generation of doctors on how to properly prescribe painkillers.

We've been very extensively training our residents in this process,” said Dr. Careyana Brenham, who directs the residency program at SIU School of Medicine. We have had numerous lectures about what pain management is, how to manage pain, what the evidence says to support what medications are best to manage pain."

The action plan also calls for increased access to care for people addicted to opioids. State officials estimate that between 200,000 and 250,000 people are waiting for addiction care. While some require inpatient care, others use outpatient medication-assisted treatment.

“The medication doesn’t help the underlying issue, as far as the addiction. It just helps the symptoms of the addiction,” said Dr. Dana Ray, medical director at Crossing Healthcare in Decatur. “The individual then needs to learn skills to deal with why they became an addict to begin with.

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