Stemming the Opioid Crisis: It Takes a Village
October 17, 2018 | Strategic Insights for Health System
Providers at a Wilmington, North Carolina, health system came to a revelation after a 2016 survey named the city No. 1 in the nation for opioid abuse. "We realized the crisis was not about opioids," said Olivia Herndon, director of mental health and public health at South East Area Health Education Center, speaking on October 8, 2018, at the American Society for Health Care Risk Management (ASHRM) conference in Nashville. "It was about systems. Opioids are just what helped us realize it." Health system leaders then launched an initiative to engage stakeholders from across the community to combat the epidemic using a systems approach. "Epidemics do not happen in silos," Herndon said. "They happen in systems. We were not going to solve this crisis alone. We needed to involve the judicial system, school system, and our faith-based systems." Relevant stakeholders brought insights to the table that healthcare leaders otherwise might never have heard. "Bringing data from all these folks across the community was really enlightening," Herndon said. "The folks from our health system and from our school systems, none of them had met each other. Imagine the great strides we can make to better serve those in our region just by simply understanding their data." Early on, it was clear that a stakeholder connected with the local community was needed. In Wilmington, that meant the church. The health system provided education for church leaders on how to communicate about opioids and on harm reduction strategies, who then relayed the messages to their congregations.