Minnesota hospital leads state efforts to fight the opioid crisis, one patient at a time
A hospital prescription bottle was found at the scene of an overdose. In a county of just over 30,000 people, one of the four local pharmacies alone was filling prescriptions for 40,000 narcotic pills every single month.
Care team members at the local hospital knew they had to do something.
“We see an overdose death every three months in our county,” said Dr. Kurt DeVine, a physician at CHI St. Gabriel’s Health in Little Falls, Minnesota. “That’s devastating, and the reality is that it’s preventable.”
DeVine and fellow physician Dr. Heather Bell did what most of us would do – they sat down at their computers and started searching to see if a clinic or hospital had found a solution to their opioid problem. They soon learned that such a program did not exist. They would have to develop with their own solution to help their community – and they did.
CHI St. Gabriel’s brought together physicians, a social worker, a pharmacist and a dedicated nurse to form the Controlled Substance Care Team in their clinic, a group with the sole task of preventing and treating opioid misuse. The group immediately got to work monitoring patients prescribed narcotic medication to treat chronic pain. In order to be successful, it was crucial to establish a shared understanding that substance use disorder is a medical condition requiring treatment and that the team’s main purpose is to ensure that patients receive the physical and mental health treatment they need.
DeVine said, “Our goal is to do what we can do to help patients with their pain but decrease the narcotics coming out of our clinic.”
If the team determines a patient may not be following his or her prescription, they connect the patient with resources to treat his or her substance use disorder.
The Controlled Substance Care Team works closely with law enforcement partners, but the partnership’s motivation may be surprising: both hospital staff and local officers want to keep people out of jail.
“I can arrest people over and over and over again, but they don’t need jail,” said Deputy Jason McDonald, a local narcotics officer. “We need to get these people into treatment.”