Treating the Opioid Crisis: April 23, 2019
It’s a medical problem that doctors and health experts are working hard to solve. “There’s a need, and hospitals need to recognize that and try to create programs. We can’t ignore the problem,” said Dr. Brian Hummel, a cardiothoracic surgeon with Lee Health.
Dr. Hummel has worked closely with other physicians to find a solution to the opioid crisis in Lee County. “It is a huge topic nationally and even internationally, but we in Southwest Florida have been particularly hard hit because of the lack of funding for mental health issues,” he said.
Utilizing all care services throughout the hospital, health experts have created a new program to treat patients with opioid addiction and reduce readmission rates. “It’s recognizing them when they come in that they do have an opioid use problem and so we’ve created a rapid response team. That includes social services, outpatient outreach, inpatient, and then we immediately offer to start them on medically assisted therapy or MAT,” explained Dr. Hummel.
Patients stay in the hospital between six and eight weeks while receiving medically assisted therapy. “There are a lot of factors that go into trying to get these people back on their feet. None of these people want to have this disease, and it’s our job as clinicians, physicians, and caregivers to treat it as a disease and hopefully help them be rid of it,” Dr. Hummel said.
The goal is to help patients get off the opioids and transition back into society. “We’ve enrolled some patients now, and so far the results seem pretty good. The patients are really responsive to the idea that we can offer medically assisted therapies, so it’s not cold turkey,” he said.
It is bringing awareness and treatment options to a disease that affects millions of Americans every year.