House bill on opioid abuse prevention seeks to replicate local program

By Ann March, CHI St. Gabriel’s Health

Family Medical Center physicians Dr. Kurt DeVine and Dr. Heather Bell testified before the Minnesota House Health and Human Services Finance Committee in support of the Opioid Abuse Prevention bill H.F. No. 2140. Pictured are (from left): DeVine, Rep. Ron Kresha and Bell.
Family Medical Center physicians Dr. Kurt DeVine and Dr. Heather Bell testified before the Minnesota House Health and Human Services Finance Committee in support of the Opioid Abuse Prevention bill H.F. No. 2140. Pictured are (from left): DeVine, Rep. Ron Kresha and Bell.

In 2015, CHI St. Gabriel’s Health, along with community partners, began confronting opioid abuse, an issue that has now been labeled an “epidemic” throughout the nation. As communities have struggled to find answers, CHI St. Gabriel’s Health staff have been sharing solutions to health systems and organizations throughout the state, providing information about how to replicate the efforts that have shown success in Morrison County.

Family Medical Center physicians Dr. Kurt DeVine and Dr. Heather Bell have been sharing information with providers and communities and indicate the demand for solutions is great.

“I’m getting calls several times a week from surrounding communities,” said DeVine. “They’re interested in learning more about our program and how to implement these strategies in their communities.”

Morrison County’s opioid abuse prevention program continues to receive attention from elected officials.

On March 6, Minnesota state Rep. Ron Kresha, R-Little Falls, authored a bill designed to help more Minnesota communities develop opioid abuse prevention programs. The bill is modeled after Morrison County’s program.

“We’ve heard a lot of discussion about the opioid problem, and this bill offers a viable solution,” said Kresha. “There’s no sense reinventing the wheel when we know we have something that works.”

H.F. No. 2140 would require the Commissioner of Health to establish opioid abuse prevention pilot projects throughout the state and appropriate funding for these projects. Current language in the bill states each pilot project would establish a multidisciplinary controlled substance care team, deliver health care services and care coordination to reduce inappropriate use of opioids, address any unmet social service needs that create barriers to managing pain effectively and obtain optimal health outcomes, provide prescriber and dispenser education, promote best practices related to opioid disposal and engage community partners outside the health care system in such efforts.

The Minnesota House Health and Human Services Finance Committee discussed the bill, Wednesday.

DeVine and Bell both testified before the committee in support of the bill. The bill moves for consideration in the Health and Human Services budget as part of the Opioid Omnibus Bill.

DeVine said he believes this bill is a step in the right direction but cautions the impact may not be immediate.

“It might be years until we see the impact, but each community we can help implement this program means fewer pills used inappropriately and available to be potentially misused,” he said. “This effort needs to spread to every community, and that takes time. When we start to see a drop in overdose deaths, that’s when we’ll know we’re making an impact.”

Bell is enthusiastic about the potential for this bill and Morrison County leading the effort.

“Having Little Falls, such a small community, helping the state solve this huge problem is really exciting,” she said.

CHI St. Gabriel’s Health president Lee Boyles said he is also pleased the organization has become a leader of efforts to address opioid abuse.

“We have providers, staff and community partners who are committed to keeping our community healthy and safe, working diligently to develop solutions that help patients obtain optimal health outcomes and at the same time reduce inappropriate use of opioids,” Boyles said. “It’s an honor that our opioid abuse prevention program has become a model to guide other communities throughout the state.”

For more information, visit chistgabriels.com or contact Kathy Lange at (320) 631-5624, or kathleen [email protected]