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BJC, SSM begin discussions on opiate, heroin abuse issues

BJC HealthCare and SSM Health, two of the major health service providers in St. Charles County, are looking to work together on issues surrounding opiate abuse and heroin addiction in the county.

Officials from both providers said during the first week of June that they have begun discussing a collaborative effort involving their emergency departments, which often treat patients with overdoses and drug issues.

“We’re working together to look at how we can help with the opiate problem in St. Charles County because we know that it’s rampant and [we] see the need to help patients and our providers understand how this [prescribing opiates] is impacting particularly young people in our community,” said Jill Skyles, vice president of patient care and chief nursing officer for BJC in the county.

BJC operates Barnes-Jewish St. Peters Hospital in St. Peters and Progress West Hospital in O’Fallon.  SMS Health operates SSM Health St. Joseph Hospital-St. Charles and SSM Health St. Joseph Hospital-Lake Saint Louis.

Skyles told hospital and community officials at a BJC breakfast briefing on June 3 at Spencer Road Library that both groups have begun discussions as part of an “ED collaborative.”

“It’s really about telling patients that come in that have needs for pain management what some opportunities are to manage that pain versus just immediately addressing the prescription issue,” Skyles said.

“That’s the beginning of the collaborative, we believe there are opportunities around mental health in our community that the two hospital systems can work together,” she said. “So we will be looking for opportunities there.”

Skyles and SSM officials both say the discussions are at an early stage.

“It’s still in the preliminary stages of forming this group, identifying goals and how they are going to bring that to fruition.,” said Greg Neunuebel, public relations consultant with SSM Health St. Joseph Hospital-St. Charles.  A meeting of the collaborative may be held in early or mid-July, he said.

Emergency departments also are often the depository for overdose victims. Dr. Robert Corley, medical director for emergency services at SSM Health St. Joseph Hospital-St. Charles, said in April that multiple overdose patients were common some days in the hospital’s emergency department.

Heroin deaths have skyrocketed in the St. Louis region in recent years as have deaths from opiate-based painkillers nationally said Corley, who lectures on prescription drug abuse.

Meanwhile, Skyles said the collaborative discussion may eventually involve other health providers who issue opiate prescriptions, including Mercy, another major health group that has medical facilities but no acute-care hospital in St. Charles County.

Hospital and St. Charles County officials also are expected to discuss the issue of a prescription drug monitoring program [PDMP] to track addictive opiate medication use. Missouri is the only state without a PDMP program and efforts to establish a statewide program have been stymied in recent years by the Missouri Senate.

State Rep. John Weiman [R-District 103], said at the BJC community meeting that he and other legislators may work to develop new PDMP legislation for the next legislative session.

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