Over 130 Medical Professionals Attendance At Opioid Workshop
By Vanessa B. Streeter (Office of County Executive Bellone)
More than 130 medical professionals joined in a Suffolk County workshop on pain management and opioid prescriptions Wednesday.
The Suffolk County Opioid Prescription Workshop, co-hosted by County Executive Steve Bellone and the Suffolk County Medical Society, was one segment of a multi-pronged approach the county is taking to tackle the prescription narcotics problem on Long Island.
“I’d like to thank the Suffolk County Medical Society, its Board of Directors and our esteemed presenters for offering their guidance and expertise for the Suffolk County’s Opioid Workshop. “The problem of opiate abuse is not a new one – it is widely known that opiate abuse will lead to heroin use, a highly addictive substance which results in damaging consequences to users and their families. In recent years, however, the problem has changed and in many respects worsened as prescription opioids have become more readily available. I believe that opiate and heroin abuse is a public health crisis that must be tackled from multiple levels. The workshop today represents yet another opportunity for Suffolk County to partner with medical professionals to address and examine how to recognize addiction, safely cease prescribing, and effectively facilitating treatment referral.”
Participants heard from health and legal experts on the challenges of providing patients the help they need to manage pain while avoiding problems caused by the over-prescription of medications.
“Denying a persistent even desperate addict the drug they need to feel well creates a challenging discussion that I’m sure none of you find pleasant,” said Dr. James Tomarken, Suffolk County commissioner of health services.
Tomarken noted that the standards for treating pain have changed over the past 25 years, making the task of determining when to prescribe medications daunting.
Among the concerns of workshop participants was the behavior of a growing number of patients who insist that the provider prescribe them pain medication.
“The opioid, heroin epidemic is a public health crisis which the county must continue to tackle on every front,” said Suffolk County Legislator William “Doc” Spencer, who opened the workshop. “Through more awareness, education, prevention and treatment, we, as elected officials, physicians, parents and teachers, can truly save lives.”
Panelists at the workshop agreed multi-disciplinary approach to chronic pain management is needed. “We are in a new age of integration of physical and mental health. Many practices today have social workers or psychologists on board who can help patients deal with chronic pain without use of narcotics.” said Art Flescher, director of Suffolk County Community Mental Hygiene. “We must start with empathy. We don’t want to discharge patients who clearly need help.”
Noting that most addicts obtain their controlled substances through illegal means, Richard Springer, supervisor of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s Long Island District Diversion Group, said that New York’s tracking system, known as I-STOP, was meeting with some success in reducing the number of prescription opiates sold on the streets. He encouraged providers to call his office with their concerns, offering education and support. “We are not going to arrest our way out of this problem,” he said.