Confluence Health, Wenatchee
More than 115 Americans die every day from opioid overdoses, a national crisis linked to narcotic pain relievers. As central Washington’s major medical provider, Confluence Health has picked a fight against rising opioid-addiction statistics in rural communities — and it’s making a difference. In late 2016, Confluence Health created the Opioid Epidemic Response Team to identify separate needs holistically. Focus groups addressed approaches for acute pain, chronic pain and drug diversion.
By 2017, a drug diversion process was in place. It created Disruptive Patient Pathway algorithms dealing with acute and chronic pain opioid users, striving to reduce the amount of medication they take daily. As part of the program, patients and staff receive opioid education.
Additionally, Confluence Health sought to reduce the prescribing of unnecessary medication in its communities. With support from the Confluence Health Foundation, it installed eight prescription-medication take-back boxes in locations stretching from Wenatchee and the Columbia Basin to locales near the Canadian border, and received nearly 1,600 pounds of unneeded medications in rural areas previously lacking disposal options.
“If you flush medications down the toilet or dispose of them in the garbage, the risk is that it gets back into the water supply,” says Glenn Adams, SVP of ancillary services at Confluence Health. “These disposal systems take the medications and have them incinerated instead.”
Confluence intends to expand the effort in the next five years and add 27 more medication disposal boxes.
UW School of Medicine Pathway Programs, Seattle
The University of Washington School of Medicine educates students in a five-state region known as WWAMI (for Washington, Wyoming, Alaska, Montana and Idaho). One mission encourages graduates to practice in rural and medically underserved urban areas. It has created a certificate program, or pathway, in five categories: Indian Health, Global Health, Hispanic Health, LGBTQ Health and Underserved Populations. Students gain mentors and learn how historical, environmental, cultural and political influences affect a population’s health services and access to care.