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Posted 01/19/2021

Preparing Health Professionals

The United States has been suffering devastating consequences of the growing opioid epidemic since the late 1990s. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, from 1999 to 2018, more than 232,000 people died in the U.S. from overdoses involving prescription opioids.

Rural communities and underserved populations who struggle with adequate resources and access to health services have been impacted particularly hard. With extension services as a core pillar, Oklahoma State University and the National Center for Wellness & Recovery are well-equipped to help those who need it most.

“OSU Center for Health Sciences and the National Center for Wellness & Recovery are committed to taking a leading role in battling the opioid epidemic afflicting Oklahomans and their families. We have assets such as clinical expertise, research capability and educational resources that can be deployed to help curtail the misuse of opioids,” said Kayse Shrum, D.O., president of OSU Center for Health Sciences and dean of the OSU College of Osteopathic Medicine.

OSU is training future physicians to recognize the symptoms of addiction and provide patients with answers and access to seek recovery. In 2013, OSU-CHS was one of the first medical schools in the nation to require students to complete a three-hour credit course in addiction medicine as part of its medical school curriculum. In 2019, OSU launched an addiction medicine fellowship, a one-year program that offers fellows the opportunity to gain experience and specialize in addiction-focused patient care.

While primary care providers in rural areas often find themselves on the front lines of addressing addiction, many lack an in-depth understanding of the disease and how to treat it. In May 2017, OSU Medicine received a three-year grant from The Anne and Henry Zarrow Foundation to launch the Addiction Medicine service line through Project ECHO® (Extension for Community Health Care Outcomes) to fill this knowledge gap.

Project ECHO is a knowledge sharing platform that allows NCWR addiction specialists to transfer their knowledge and expertise in addiction to primary care providers throughout Oklahoma. Through weekly video conferences, primary care providers in rural and underserved areas can develop the knowledge and skills needed to help their patients manage pain and overcome addiction.

“Our Project ECHO addiction medicine service line is uniquely positioned to reach into the rural areas hit hardest by opioid dependency. Through ECHO, OSU-CHS is using videoconferencing technology to equip rural primary care providers with the knowledge and the skills they need to help their patients overcome opioid addiction and other addictions. This will go a long way with increasing patient access in rural Oklahoma to addiction treatment,” said Jason Beaman, D.O., executive director of training and education at NCWR at OSU; and chair, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at OSU-CHS.

Medication assisted treatment is an evidence-based, highly effective treatment that combines medication with counseling and behavioral therapies to provide a whole-patient approach to addiction treatment. Due to a shortage in physicians qualified to administer addiction medications in Oklahoma, OSU-CHS began providing the necessary training to all OSU second-year resident physicians, as well as practicing physicians.

To curb escalating opioid prescription rates, OSU-CHS began offering a Proper Prescribing course to educate providers on the history and severity of the opioid epidemic as well as current treatment options.

In September 2019, NCWR held its inaugural Addiction Medicine Conference, a five-day conference for practicing physicians focusing on the legal and regulatory landscape of addiction. As part of the annual conference, NCWR provides an addiction medicine review course to encourage more physicians to consider practicing addiction medicine. The course prepares physicians for the American Board of Preventative Medicine (ABPM) Addiction Medicine Exam.

OSU and NCWR continue to be at the forefront of addiction medicine education as well as biomedical and clinical research, population health, community advocacy and innovative patient care methods.

Deanne Vick | January 2021