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PA Hospitals Combat Opioid Epidemic amid COVID-19

June 23, 2021

Pennsylvania’s hospitals have not lost sight of their shared mission to address the opioid crisis amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Instead, they are evolving to address two challenging public health crises.

The second day of HAP’s Opioid Learning Action Network (LAN) Capstone Conference focused on the strategies Pennsylvania’s hospitals have deployed to treat opioid use disorder (OUD) and the ways they have transformed care for patients during the pandemic.

During the past two years, HAP’s Opioid LAN has brought together the health care community to address the opioid epidemic, with a continued focus on pathways to evidence-based treatment and reducing overdose deaths.

The work happening in Pennsylvania serves as a national model of “collaborative innovation” and has accelerated the adoption of best practices across the state, said Dr. Kelly Henning, MD, from Bloomberg Philanthropies, which has provided funding for HAP’s Opioid LAN and related initiatives to address the opioid epidemic.

“It cannot be overstated how important emergency departments and other hospital settings are to engage overdose patients and to initiate treatment,” Dr. Henning said.

The second day of the conference featured breakout discussions on four important topics:

  • Chronic pain and OUD in the age of COVID-19: Opioid and substance use disorder have increased during the pandemic, in part due to challenges accessing treatment and the suspension of surgical and procedural services. The management of chronic pain and a focus on best practices will be especially important as we emerge from the pandemic to help reverse the trend
  • The impact of hospital-based peer-to-peer care coordination: Certified recovery specialists with lived experience in long-term recovery can play an important role to help guide patients to services and through complex health systems—with an overall goal to connect patients with treatment options that meet their specific needs
  • Patient refusals and against medical advice dispositions: It’s critical to identify the reasons why patients opt out of care against medical advice and to reengage them. Patients with OUD opt out of care for a variety of reasons (stigma, breakdowns in communication, dissatisfaction with care), but the conversation should not end after the initial refusal. Certified recovery specialists can help increase buy-in from staff to reengage patients and keep the conversation going
  • Telehealth and changes in OUD care due to COVID-19: Behavioral health providers have deployed telehealth to reach patients throughout the pandemic. Proposals moving through the General Assembly will help provide clarity about the future of telehealth, establishing rules for audio-only visits, reimbursement, and new regulations. Understanding the rules for billing and coding are essential to ensure providers are able to offer telehealth for patients when appropriate

The three-day Capstone Conference concludes tomorrow with a look at the policy recommendations from HAP’s Opioid LAN, and sessions focusing on X-Waivers and the ways hospitals can sustain their addiction medicine and OUD programs.

For more information or questions about HAP’s Opioid LAN, contact Jennifer Jordan, HAP’s vice president, regulatory advocacy, or Daneen Schroder, HAP’s vice president, business development and member services.