The Lead

Pa. hospital trade group launches new collaborative effort to fight opioid abuse

By: - August 20, 2019 1:42 pm

Healthcare leaders from across Pennsylvania met in Harrisburg Tuesday to kick of a new opioid abuse prevention effort sponsored by the Hospital and Healthsystem Association of Pennsylvania (Capital-Star photo).

The way David Greenspan sees it, hospital leaders across Pennsylvania have plenty to say to each other about opioid abuse and the state’s ongoing effort to conquer it and to prevent overdoses. It’s getting them together and talking that can sometimes be the tricky thing.

“People across the state are discovering ways to get the job done,” Greenspan, the chair of the Psychiatry Department at Einstein Medical Center in Philadelphia, said Tuesday. “We struggle every day with the best ways to get the job done.”

Looking to close that communication and information-sharing gap, Pennsylvania’s hospital industry trade group on Tuesday launched a two-year effort aimed at getting hospitals from Perkasie to Pittsburgh to adopt evidence-based best practices to get patients on the road to recovery.

“This is just the beginning of a … journey of helping Pennsylvania’s hospital community improve on our excellent work in this space by … implementing new ideas to prevent overdoses and help patients get the care they need to recover,” Andy Carter, president and CEO of the Hospital and Healthsystem Association of Pennsylvania, which is sponsoring the statewide effort, said in a statement.

The “Opioid Learning Action Network” is underwritten by a grant from the Bloomberg Philanthropies, the charity run by former New York City Mayor — and billionaire — Michael Bloomberg. It’s focused on finding frontline solutions that hospitals can use to fight the epidemic, rather than tackling the public policy issues that are also part of the debate.

Bloomberg’s group has pledged $10 million to help reduce overdose deaths in Pennsylvania. Experts from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health will assist officials and physicians from about 100 hospitals statewide in the initiative, organizers said in a statement.

A half-dozen of those involved in the program met in a suburban Harrisburg hotel on Tuesday morning to discuss the program and how it will aid in fighting a public health epidemic that claimed the lives of more than 4,400 in 2018, according to Drug Enforcement Agency data cited by Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration.

The officials who gathered Tuesday said the new effort will break hospitals and recovery specialists out of silos that tend to see them acting independently each other as they try to come up with solutions that suit their own situations.

“We are building a learning action network. People can come, they can get information, and they can take that information and apply it to their own institutions,” Jennifer Jordan, HAP’s vice president for regulatory advocacy, said.

The two-year effort will include such outreach as webinars, as well as face-to-face meetings. Organizers also envision regional conversations as they seem to build “connective tissues” with those working across the healthcare spectrum, Jordan added.

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