NJ Hospital 1st in the Nation to Provide Opioid Alternative to ER Patients

I had the opportunity to participate in a press conference on Monday hosted by St. Joseph’s Hospital in Paterson. Senator Menendez, Senator Booker, and Congressman Pascrell were on hand to announce St. Joseph’s as the first hospital in the nation to stop prescribing opioids in their ER. Please share this news with your local hospital and ask them to join St. Joseph’s Hospital. Together we can start changing the culture of over-prescribing a drug that can be addictive and dangerous.

from NorthJersey.com:

 

The Record: War on opiates

In this March 23, 2016, photo, Dr. Mark S. Rosenberg and Dr. Alexis LaPietra talk to patient Bob Notar in the emergency room at St. Joseph's Regional Medical Center in Paterson. The hospital has launched an opioid-alternative program to cut down on the abuse of the drugs that have helped to fuel a deadly crisis.
 
MARKO GEORGIEV/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
In this March 23, 2016, photo, Dr. Mark S. Rosenberg and Dr. Alexis LaPietra talk to patient Bob Notar in the emergency room at St. Joseph's Regional Medical Center in Paterson. The hospital has launched an opioid-alternative program to cut down on the abuse of the drugs that have helped to fuel a deadly crisis.
 

ALL FORMS of addiction start somewhere, but an innovative program recently begun at St. Joseph's Regional Medical Center is attempting to cut off one source of the problem close to where it starts by prescribing fewer addictive medications to patients. Too often, say some experts, a medication, perhaps even a proven painkiller, is prescribed with good intentions but ends up becoming another monster altogether — one known as heroin or prescription-drug addiction.

During a meeting Monday, federal lawmakers came to Paterson to praise ALTO, the pioneering program at St. Joseph's, and to use its protocols as an example of how to encourage other common-sense public health solutions to fight the scourge of addiction. Each day 46 people die from an overdose of prescription painkillers in the United States.

"Too many New Jerseyans have fallen to addiction, too many lives have been lost, too many families shattered," U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez said Monday. He told attendees that since 1999 there has been a fourfold increase in the number of opiate prescriptions written, to 260 million. In other words, that is enough for every American adult to have a bottle of pain pills.

Making use of the so-called ALTO (Alternative to Opiates Program) protocol, St. Joseph's since January has treated more than 300 patients suffering from painful conditions including kidney stones and broken bones with non-addictive medication, including Tylenol, in the emergency room. The program used at the Paterson hospital is apparently the first in the nation to create new standards in the emergency room to help stem a crisis that kills more people in New Jersey than car accidents.

Monday's round-table discussion was sponsored by St. Joseph's, along with addiction experts, county prosecutors and state police, as a way to better prevent substance abuse and to offer more treatment options. Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr., D-Paterson, noted that representatives from drug companies were not at the event but should be included in comprehensive reforms. "We need the pharmaceutical companies here because they're shoving drugs down our throat."

The Paterson hospital, whose emergency department sees nearly 160,000 individuals annually, appears to be the first in the state to treat patients suffering from painful kidney stones, broken backs, back pain, sciatica and severe headaches with nerve blocks, anti-inflammatory medications and other non-narcotics. Dr. Alexis LaPietra said the program is reducing the use of opiates by up to 75 percent for some treatments.

As Staff Writer Mary Jo Layton reported, surgeons throughout North Jersey are also joining in the opiate reduction pursuit, with many of them prescribing pre-operation cocktails with intravenous Tylenol and other medications and following up with nerve blocks to ease pain of hip and knee replacement instead of relying on opiates.

The ALTO protocols may not be the only answer in the long fight against drug abuse in this country, but it does seem to have the makings of part of the answer, a preemptive strike, as it were, against the ravages that full-blown addiction can inflict on users and their families.

U.S. Sen. Cory Booker, who attended the round table and knows the addiction issue all too well after serving nearly two terms as mayor of Newark, said that "we can't use the same old tools year after year" to stem the tide of addiction. A more holistic approach is required now, one that separates what works from what doesn't, and separates, where possible, the disease of addiction from the specter of criminality.

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