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Samaritan Implements Proven Practices to Help Prevent Opioid Dependency

Samaritan Medical Center has implemented improved medication practices in the Emergency Department (ED), inpatient care, and within surgical services to help counteract the local opioid dependency crisis. By administering fewer opioids for pain, patients are less exposed to these powerful drugs that can to lead to physical and mental dependency.

Samaritan joined forces last year with the Iroquois Healthcare Association (IHA) Opioid Alternative Project, a groundbreaking initiative that allows our Emergency Department (ED) to become part of the solution in tackling the opioid epidemic. This project was piloted by Iroquois Healthcare Association, a regional trade organization representing 54 hospitals and health systems across 32 counties of Upstate New York. The initiative took effect in our Emergency Department in March of 2019.

Samaritan’s Emergency Department has the ability to treat pain in ways that are proven effective without unnecessarily exposing patients to the dependency risks associated with opioids, a practice known as alternative options for pain. The Samaritan Emergency Department is not changing to be “opioid free,” but is using medications that are non-habit-forming and proven to treat the condition and not just pain. We recognize there are patients and conditions that are appropriate to treat with opioids and we will continue to do this; however, if the conditions and patient allow for an alternative therapy, it will be provided. Minimizing pain in the most responsible way is a large part of what we are trying to accomplish.

In addition to our IHA partnership in the Emergency Department, Samaritan is working with community agencies like Northern Regional Center for Independent Living (NCRIL) and Anchor Recovery Center to help educate, refer, and follow-up with patients that present with a current opioid dependency. The goal is to provide immediate counseling and referrals to community resources when a patient is having a crisis situation.

For inpatient care and surgical services, we are adopting similar practices for pain medication – when feasible, we will use less opioid medication for patients who are in pain.

Samaritan is committed do its part in alleviating and preventing opioid dependency issues in our communities. Using pain medication that decreases the risk of dependency issues will only serve to benefit our patients and help them sustain long-term health and wellness.