Project ECHO for Pain Management and Opioid Addiction

Community Health Center, Inc.
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Professional Development
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Community Health Center, Inc. (CHC) is a private, nonprofit agency that provides primary care, behavioral health, and social services to underserved populations in Connecticut. Through its Weitzman Institute, CHC promotes innovations in quality improvement techniques as well as systems redesign focused on areas that have direct implications on the day-to-day practice of primary care for medically underserved patients.

This project supports the use of Project ECHO in primary care clinics in New Jersey to reduce the over-prescribing of prescription opiates and expand access to buprenorphine, a U.S. Food and Drug Administration-approved medication for the treatment of opiate addiction.

Opiate addiction and overdose is a growing public health crisis for New Jersey and the rest of the nation. In 2011, 1,008 drug-related deaths occurred in New Jersey—a 20 percent increase from 2010. Nearly half the deaths were among people 25 or younger and 337 of them involved oxycodone. Accidental drug and alcohol overdoses have now surpassed motor vehicle crashes as the greatest cause of unintentional death in New Jersey.

Opiates include prescription pain medications, such as Vicodin and Oxycontin, as well as street drugs like heroin. Addiction often begins when individuals with chronic pain receive a prescription for an opiate from their physician, despite the fact that there is no evidence to demonstrate the benefit of such treatment on long-term outcomes for chronic pain. Many of these individuals become dependent on, and then addicted to, the prescribed opiate. In addition, a percentage of those who become addicted will go on to use heroin because it is cheaper and stronger than prescription opiates. According to a 2015 study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 45% of people nationwide who used heroin also were addicted to prescription opiates.

This project seeks to prevent and treat addiction by using the ECHO model. ECHO uses telecommunications technology and case-based learning to foster mentoring partnerships between specialists and primary care providers. The mentors in this project are specialists in pain management and addiction treatment. In the ECHO sessions, primary care providers and their care teams learn how to appropriately treat patients’ chronic pain and how to adopt state-of-the-art approaches to buprenorphine treatment for patients already addicted to opiates.  

Learn more about Community Health Center.

Additional Coverage

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