The Voyageur’s Room at the Atwood Center at St. Cloud State was packed with medical and community attendees to hear two riveting presentations on “The Opioid Prescribing Crisis” at the Kick-Off Spring Forum of the Stearns Benton Medical Society and the Central Minnesota Circle of Health April 22, 2014. Dr. Chris Johnson, an ER physician at Park Nicollet presented data on the extent of the problems facing physicians and their staff who prescribe opioids and other associated meds in daily practice. He outlined the policy he was instrumental in developing for use across all of his group’s emergency rooms in order to better serve their emergency patients who need this type of medication. This policy allows physicians to treat pain humanely, but without as much of the pressure that patients can bring to bear on staff in a busy emergency room practice to prescribe more narcotics, anxiolytics and similar meds. Enactment of this policy has sharply reduced their admissions for generalized pain control for chronic pain patients in their area and has reduced the time they spend negotiating with chronic pain patients over dosing and prescribing of these meds.
St. Paul, Minnesota DEA drug diversion expert, Joe Cappello then presented surprising data on drug diversion crimes occurring regularly in Minnesota and within our own medical community on a daily basis. It became steadily more apparent during these presentations that we in the Central Minnesota medical community need to collaborate to develop our own similar policy for prescribing these meds in order to provide better overall care, reduce diversion and relieve much of the occupational stress that physicians and other providers face daily dealing with this problem.
During the lively discussion that ensued, it was clear that many physicians and their treatment team members are feeling the pressure and stress that opioid prescribing issues can cause in daily practice. Many expressed a desire to continue this conversation and meet subsequently with further expert guidance to develop our own community policy for dealing with this issue.
At this Circle of Health 2014 Kick-Off for the Medication Safety Campaign, we revealed plans to address several medication safety issues this year. We would like to provide at least monthly meetings open to the public where core members of the Circle of Health can make presentations to facilitate public discussion of effective means for improving medication safety in our medical community. We would like to schedule multiple drug drop-off events perhaps associated with public presentations that cover one or more of the medication safety issues that we have identified. Pat Krueger has already created several poster and information sheet templates for us to use at health fairs, expo’s and public events. We expect to work on several medication safety issues like what to do with unused or outdated meds, prescription or over-the-counter, keeping children safely away from medications stored at home, knowing your meds and keeping a list of them with you, environmental impact of dumping meds into the garbage or landfills, and so on.
We will plan another core group meeting in Mid-May to discuss additional planning. The Stearns Benton Medical Society and the Circle of Health community health council thank Student Health Services Director, Corrie Beckermann and the SCSU staff for offering the Atwood Center meeting room for this event and for working so hard to organize and set it up. Our thanks also to Pat Krueger for creating the Circle of Health slide show, Stuart Goldschen for taking great photos and our Executive Director, Mandy Rubenstein for organizing this event. We also thank the staff of the Minnesota Medical Association who attended including Foundation Director, Dennis Kelly and Communications specialist, Terry Ruane. Special thanks also to MMA President, Dr. Cindy Ferkins-Smith and her husband Jim for attending and for the kind words on our behalf. We have momentum going forward as our 2014 Medication Safety Campaign is now officially under way.