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Local Medical Community Participating in NIH Sponsored Opioid Project


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The Ohio Health Physicians Group Heritage College and Ohio Health O’Bleness Hospital are participating in a national study called “Healing Communities” sponsored by the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Athens is one of 67 communities across the country selected for this project.

The goal of the study is to “reduce opioid related overdoses by 40 percent over three years says the NIH website. In Ohio, participation by a number of communities is being coordinated through Ohio State University and the University of Cincinnati with Ohio University’s Heritage of College of Osteopathic Medicine also participating.

NIH designated communities are mandated to use “evidence-based” interventions for opioid addiction and abuse says Dr. Christopher Meyer, Addiction Medicine Specialist for Ohio Health Physicians Groups Heritage College.

Some of the interventions are applied by Dr. Meyer and other physicians at OhioHealth. They help addicts kick their habits, manage their addictions and lead more normal lives

Other interventions are being applied at the Ohio Health O’Bleness Hospital Emergency Department, according to Rhonda Dixon, Chief Nursing Officer at O’Bleness Hospital.

Narcan, a drug to help with overdoses, is now routinely being used at the Emergency Department in case an overdose is presented says Dr. Meyer.

Also, O’Bleness Hospital has hired an “opioid patient navigator,” says Dixon.

This navigator works with patients, who come in with overdoses, to determine next steps and acquaints them with resources to help them break their addiction cycle. This navigator is provided as part of the NIH grant and provides personal follow-up with patients after leaving the Emergency Department.

Addiction specialists in the Athens area have been on high alert during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Overdose cases coming into Emergency Departments have increased 18 percent during the COVID-19 isolation, Dr, Meyer notes.

It is hoped that cases will diminish with the new Healing Community practices in place and easing of the COVID-19 isolation orders by the State of Ohio.