With a $1.5 million three-year grant from the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, Drexel University College of Medicine clinicians are undertaking an ambitious, wide-ranging project to address the opioid epidemic in Philadelphia, where 1,217 residents died from unintentional drug overdoses in 2017.
The funding, from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration within HHS, will allow the College of Medicine to create a Center of Excellence for Urban Integrated Opioid Use Disorder Healthcare.
The center will:
- Expand and integrate addiction treatment services, including medication-assisted treatment, for high-risk Drexel Medicine patients
- Establish an Addiction Consultation Team to provide expert evaluation to at-risk patients in both inpatient and outpatient health care settings
- Create a highly trained group of peer specialists to help identify, engage, enroll and support at-risk individu-als in the recovery process
- Expand opioid use disorder educational programs to all Drexel health care providers, trainees and affiliates
- Create a replicable model for use by other health care systems
By the end of year 3, the Drexel clinicians are seeking to engage at least 300 new individuals in medication-assisted treatment, to decrease the use of illicit opioids among enrolled patients by 50 percent, and to reduce by half the number of opioid prescriptions written by providers in the Drexel system.
"As a large, community-focused academic health center, with 490,000 patient visits in 2017, Drexel Medicine has a significant opportunity to expand opioid use disorder prevention and treatment," says principal investigator Barbara Schindler, MD, a professor of psychiatry and pediatrics at the College of Medicine.
"I want to move addiction out of the social arena of medicine and into the mainstream area of medicine that includes diabetes, cardiac disease and cancer."
Schindler is the founder and medical director of Drexel's Caring Together Program, an outpatient treatment program based in the Germantown section of Philadelphia. The program, established in 1991, helps women with substance use disorders and their children overcome addiction through a multidisci-plinary approach.
With the establishment of the OUD Center of Excellence, Caring Together is one of a number of Drexel programs that will be integrated to provide substance abuse treatment and training. Other programs include Drexel's Opioid Safe Prescribing Task Force; the Department of Emergency Medicine, which provides medication-assisted treatment to patients; Drexel Medicine's clinical practices; and Drexel's Partnership Comprehensive Care Practice, which currently treats more than 1,700 HIV-positive individuals in the city.
Schindler says that education for health care workers, medical students and trainees will be a critical component of the HHS-funded project.
"Because I've worked in the field for a long time, educating patients and future clinicians about substance abuse is a passion of mine," Schindler says. "I want to move addiction out of the social arena of medicine and into the mainstream area of medicine that includes diabetes, cardiac disease and cancer. If physicians start to view addiction as any other chronic disease, then we can really begin to solve this crisis."