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Area health providers team up to combat opioid abuse

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The Central Pennsylvania health care community has formed a new partnership to combat opioid and heroin abuse.

A team of health systems, hospitals, pharmacists and health organizations said they have launched the South Central PA Opioid Awareness Coalition on Wednesday.

The coalition's goal is to raise awareness of the opioid crisis and to educate patients and providers on prevention of abuse and addiction.

Membership spans Adams, Cumberland, Dauphin, Franklin, Lancaster, Lebanon and York counties, as well as the Hospital and Healthsystem Association of Pennsylvania, organizers said.

"The opioid epidemic touches every corner of our region, and its effects are felt across virtually every health care field," coalition facilitator Alice Yoder, director of community health at Lancaster General Health/Penn Medicine, said in a news release.

The coalition has started meeting monthly and members expect to finalize a budget in coming weeks, Yoder said in an interview.

The announcement of the coalition's start coincides with National Prevention Week, which aims to increase public awareness of, and action around, substance abuse and mental-health issues.

Regional coalition member organizations include:

Geisinger Holy Spirit

Hanover Hospital

• Heart of Lancaster Medical Center and Lancaster Regional Medical Center

• The Hospital and Healthsystem Association of Pennsylvania

• The Lancaster County Pharmacists Association

Lancaster General Health/Penn Medicine

Memorial Hospital, York

Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center

• Physicians’ Alliance Ltd.


Summit Health

WellSpan Health

The coalition is urging community members to lock up prescription medications and to let their doctors or pharmacists know if there are any concerns or problems with misuse of the medication.

It also will educate members of the public on new opioid prescription protocols that are being enacted across the region, and will seek to raise awareness of non-opioid alternatives for treating chronic pain.

Yoder, noting that 10 people a day died from overdoses of prescription opioids or heroin in Pennsylvania in 2015, noted that "too many prescribed opioid medications are either being abused by patients or are making it into the hands of those who were not the intended recipients.

"Because we cannot know who may develop problems with these medicines, prescribers are working to try to prevent those problems with these changes."

The coalition said it is welcoming other organizations and health-care providers to join its awareness campaign. As part of the new prescription protocols, many providers are now asking patients to sign a controlled-substance agreement and to undergo drug screenings.

The coalition also is planning to unveil a website that will include resources and information for the public.

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David O'Connor

David O'Connor

Dave O'Connor covers York County, higher education, nonprofits, and workforce development. Have a tip or question for him? Email him at Follow him on Twitter, @DaveOC_CPBJ.

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Ed Nielsen May 18, 2017 2:26 pm

Let's be clear: the central PA allopathic health providers (MDs) and hospital/ health systems have formed an opioid awareness coalition, but it is by no means even remotely inclusive of the many health providers who should be invited to this seemingly closed group. The opioid awareness coalition would be wise to make a genuine outreach effort to invite all health providers, especially those non-MDs specializing in pain management, to engage with this group if the desire is to both enlighten the community and prevent more ODs and deaths from happening here in central PA.

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