Task force hears new guidelines for prescriptions

The Lycoming County Heroin Task Force heard from several of its subcommittees Friday, including the medical subcommittee, which had news regarding prescription drugs.

Dr. Rene Rigal, city Board of Health officer and a pain management specialist with Susquehanna Health, presented new prescription guidelines that recently were adopted by the Pennsylvania Medical Society.

There are two sets of guidelines, he explained, one for emergency room care and one for other medical providers.

“Prescription drugs are the portal of entry for heroin use, but we have to ask ourselves why they’re being abused if they are legally prescribed,” he said. “That can only mean one thing: that the doctor is not prescribing them accurately, or is overprescribing.”

Some of the emergency room guidelines call for a limit of seven days on prescriptions for opioids and for the attending doctor to first consider non-opioid medications.

They also say that ER providers should not prescribe long-acting drugs like OxyContin, extended-release morphine, or methadone.

Rigal called the tendency of doctors to prescribe opioids without considering other options or doing a more thorough history of the patient a “happy pens” approach.

He said that it’s especially troubling for a health care system like Susquehanna Health, which is the largest provider of care in Williamsport and writes between 60 and 70 percent of opioid prescriptions in the area.

“If we can control that, it would be enormously helpful,” he said.

Rigal also said that Susquehanna Health is considering implementing the guidelines, which he called “a very important first step,” as a company-wide policy.

The group also heard from the youth subcommittee, which, despite summer vacation, has been busy.

“We’re trying to get our message out further, not just with T-shirts, but with more engagement,” said Natalie Lamoreaux, a 2014 graduate of Muncy High School.

The committee gave several updates on some of their ongoing projects, the largest of which is a float planned for the Little League Grand Slam Parade on Aug. 13.

Several meetings have been held by the committee, Lamoreaux said, and a design has been decided upon.

The black-and-red float will feature members of Students Against Destructive Decisions from the eight local school districts and St. John Neumann engaging in “anti-drug” activities.

“For example, I play a lot of softball, so I’ll be holding softball equipment,” Lamoreaux said. “Drums, music, dance, whatever activities that our members are involved with, we’ll represent it on the float.”

She said that the parade provides a perfect opportunity to spread the message of spending time on positive activites in order to avoid getting involved with alcohol and drugs.

“It’s on a world stage, basically,” she said. “What better way to get our message out there?”