NEW HYDE PARK, NY —
Northwell Health announced it will offer free narcan training at its hospitals in addition to instituting a drug take-back pilot program. These are the latest in the health system's ongoing efforts to combat the opioid epidemic in New York State, which has reached a troubling inflection point after a number of recent drug overdoses.
There were 500 deaths linked to drug abuse in 2016 in Nassau and Suffolk counties, according to a report by county medical examiners. Unused prescription drugs sitting idle in one's home – within easy reach of curious teenagers and others – is just one scenario where powerful medications can be abused. The Northwell Health drug take-back depositories will be available starting on July 1.
"People's leftover pain medications in their medicine cabinets can be found and consumed by teenagers," said Jonathan Morgenstern, director of addiction services or Northwell Health. "Northwell Health is doing what it can to address opioid addiction among the populations we serve, but I would also encourage people in our communities to partner with us to truly make an impact on this important issue."
Suffolk County had the highest rate of opioid-related deaths in New York State between 2009-2013, according to the state Department of Health. The Northwell Health Opioid Taskforce has been in place for about a year and is made up of physicians, nurses and other Northwell Health staff from a variety of specialty areas. They are working to implement standards and protocols throughout Northwell Health facilities to offer patients alternative pain management treatments as well as education about narcotic pain medications.
"One of the ways Northwell Health is combating the opioid epidemic is by creating a collaborative and individualized approach to managing pain," said Jay Enden, MD, medical director of Northwell Health's Eastern region and director of the opioid taskforce. "As health care providers, we need to manage pain in partnership with patients. We need to do so in a way that minimizes both the likelihood of long-term use and the amount of excess prescription narcotics entering our communities. We are working to offer patients alternatives to narcotic pain medication, including specialized nerve blocks that help prevent pain at the time of a procedure and thereafter."
Another way Northwell Health is tackling this problem is through its screening, brief intervention and referral to treatment (SBIRT) program. Patients are screened during routine medical visits to help spot a potential narcotic abuse problem before it begins.
The Northwell Health Opioid Taskforce is an outgrowth of the successful pilot program at Southside Hospital.
While prevention is key, frontline measures are equally important. Narcan is a nasal spray that is used to stop an opioid overdose in its tracks. Northwell Health is offering free narcan training and kits at some of its facilities, including South Oaks Hospital.
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About Northwell Health
Northwell Health is New York State's largest health care provider and private employer, with 22 hospitals and over 550 outpatient facilities. We care for more than two million people annually in the metro New York area and beyond, thanks to philanthropic support from our communities. Our 62,000 employees – 15,000+ nurses and about 3,900 physicians, including more than 2,800 members of Northwell Health Physician Partners – are working to change health care for the better. We're making breakthroughs in medicine at the Feinstein Institute. We're training the next generation of medical professionals at the visionary Hofstra Northwell School of Medicine and the School of Graduate Nursing and Physician Assistant Studies. And we offer health insurance through CareConnect. For information on our more than 100 medical specialties, visit Northwell.edu.