Fighting opioids

Increased awareness through community education and engagement, and strengthening of partnerships within the community represent a few of the many accomplishments of Project Bald Eagle. It was a key organization at a critical moment in time, made up of important community leaders and organizations. However, the dissolution of the organization has many asking questions. Primarily, who will next carry this role?

To the individuals involved with Project Bald Eagle, thank you for your time, sacrifice, and passion dedicated to serving our community.

The U. S. Department of Health and Human Services has awarded a total of $485 million in grants to combat the opioid crisis and prevent and treat opioid addiction. Gov. Wolf recently announced the renewal of the 90-day opioid disaster declaration that assists in providing more services for those individuals suffering from addiction. With discontinuation of Project Bald Eagle, additional leadership and resources are needed during this epidemic, particularly from those positioned to make a positive influence at the local level.

In the past year, UPMC Susquehanna has been hard at work continuing the momentum provided by Project Bald Eagle. Through increased buy-in and collaboration from its providers, new monthly electronic health record opioid prescriptions are down 34% per month. Additionally, the total morphine equivalent potency of those medications is down 48% compared with one-year prior prescribing patterns.

In December, UPMC Pittsburgh was awarded a $5.7 million federal grant to fight the opioid epidemic throughout key areas in need. As a result, West Branch Drug and Alcohol Abuse Commission and UPMC Susquehanna along with several other entities have increased collaboration to provide help to those who need addiction services.

An example includes development of an intervention process known as a “Warm Handoff” which has been implemented in the emergency departments and inpatient units with the goal of getting substance use patients into appropriate treatment and reducing repeat overdoses or death.

A new medicine service line at UPMC Susquehanna has been launched with the intent of augmenting addiction services, including medication assisted treatment options. Moreover, naloxone kits are available for distribution to patients at risk of opioid overdose.

In partnership with the community, UPMC Susquehanna plans to continue to do its part in helping to carry this mantle in an effort to continue making lasting change.

Alex Johnson MHA

Director of Addiction Medicine

UPMC Susquehanna