NEENAH, Wis. – ThedaCare serves more than 600,000 people throughout Northeast and Central Wisconsin and is committed to the mission of improving the health of the communities they serve. ThedaCare leaders and caregivers know it is a responsibility of the organization to understand health issues in those communities, including opioid dependency.
“Opioid dependency is a national problem, and Northeast and Central Wisconsin are not immune to the issue,” said Dr. Kelli Heindel, ThedaCare’s Medical Director of Primary Care, Clinically Integrated Network. “We want to help patients, families and communities understand how to use opioids safely and where to find help if necessary.”
Drug abuse was among the top three health problems identified in a ThedaCare Community Health Needs Assessment completed in 2016. To combat that emerging crisis, in 2018 ThedaCare created a multi-disciplinary team to develop a system-wide strategy to reduce opioid use and increase awareness of the risks of using opioids. It combined its efforts with the Centers for Disease Control’s (CDC) national campaign entitled “It Only Takes a Little to Lose a Lot.” The campaign included billboards, social media, medication takeback boxes and public service announcements across the service area.
Dr. Heindel noted that ThedaCare physicians have adopted best practices as identified by the Centers for Disease Control and other organizations and guidelines around prescribing opioids. Doctors are using opioids less frequently for chronic pain, prescribing lower doses and searching out alternative treatments.
In addition, ThedaCare is now increasing its capacity to provide medically assisted treatment (MAT) for those addicted to opioids.
“Medically assisted treatment is effective for people who are currently addicted to opioids by treating them with medications that help them to stop using opioids,” Dr. Heindel said. “Some forms of MAT requires additional certification for the doctor or advanced practice clinician and a specific level of support staff for a clinic to qualify to provide services.”
As a result, in April, ThedaCare will be hosting a Buprenorphine DEA X-Waiver training session. This series, managed by Wisconsin Society of Addiction Medicine (WISAM), is designed to increase treatment capacity for opioid use disorders by training more prescribers to be able to treat opioid use disorders with buprenorphine.