March 10, 2020
Affirming ThedaCare’s Commitment to Combating the Opioid Crisis
NEENAH, Wis. – ThedaCare serves more than 600,000 people throughout Northeast and Central Wisconsin and is committed to the mission of improving the health of the communities they serve. ThedaCare leaders and caregivers know it is a responsibility of the organization to understand health issues in those communities, including opioid dependency.
“Opioid dependency is a national problem, and Northeast and Central Wisconsin are not immune to the issue,” said Dr. Kelli Heindel, ThedaCare’s Medical Director of Primary Care, Clinically Integrated Network. “We want to help patients, families and communities understand how to use opioids safely and where to find help if necessary.”
Drug abuse was among the top three health problems identified in a ThedaCare Community Health Needs Assessment completed in 2016. To combat that emerging crisis, in 2018 ThedaCare created a multi-disciplinary team to develop a system-wide strategy to reduce opioid use and increase awareness of the risks of using opioids. It combined its efforts with the Centers for Disease Control’s (CDC) national campaign entitled “It Only Takes a Little to Lose a Lot.” The campaign included billboards, social media, medication takeback boxes and public service announcements across the service area.
Dr. Heindel noted that ThedaCare physicians have adopted best practices as identified by the Centers for Disease Control and other organizations and guidelines around prescribing opioids. Doctors are using opioids less frequently for chronic pain, prescribing lower doses and searching out alternative treatments.
In addition, ThedaCare is now increasing its capacity to provide medically assisted treatment (MAT) for those addicted to opioids.
“Medically assisted treatment is effective for people who are currently addicted to opioids by treating them with medications that help them to stop using opioids,” Dr. Heindel said. “Some forms of MAT requires additional certification for the doctor or advanced practice clinician and a specific level of support staff for a clinic to qualify to provide services.”
As a result, in April, ThedaCare will be hosting a Buprenorphine DEA X-Waiver training session. This series, managed by Wisconsin Society of Addiction Medicine (WISAM), is designed to increase treatment capacity for opioid use disorders by training more prescribers to be able to treat opioid use disorders with buprenorphine.
Buprenorphine, when used in addition to counseling and behavioral therapies, can help provide a whole-patient approach to help those dealing with an opioid dependency. Buprenorphine is a medication used to treat opioid dependency that is permitted to be prescribed or dispensed in physician offices, increasing treatment access. Qualified physicians, and mid-level practitioners with a DEA X-Waiver License can offer buprenorphine for opioid dependency in various settings.
“We recognize it is important to step up and host a training session, not just for ThedaCare providers, but for providers from other systems in the area, giving them the opportunity to prescribe Buprenorphine and ultimately help more people” said Dr. Heindel. “If we truly want to find a solution to the crisis, we must work collaboratively to implement best practices across Wisconsin.”
These courses are free to all Wisconsin providers who are eligible to prescribe buprenorphine. The course involves four hours of online training paired with four hours of in-person training, which can be completed at the session hosted by ThedaCare. The online portion of the course will introduce learners to treating opioid use disorder with medications. The live portion is completed after the online portion and focuses on special populations and cases. The four hour on-demand course must be completed prior to attending any of the in-person trainings.
The session hosted by ThedaCare will take place Friday, April 24 from 1:00 p.m.-5:30 p.m. at Miron Construction Co., Inc. in Neenah. Registration is required: http://wisam-asam.com/XWaiver. There is also another session taking place on Friday, April 24 from 8:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m., which is open to all as well.
The Buprenorphine X-Waiver Training Session was made possible through the generosity of donors of the ThedaCare Family of Foundations. To help support the health and care of our communities, you can make a gift online at thedacare.org/donate or send contributions to ThedaCare Family of Foundations, 1818 N. Meade Street, Appleton, WI 54911.
As the area’s only local, not-for-profit health system, ThedaCare reinvests all revenue over expenses back into the community for healthcare programs and services. In 2018, the total dollar value of that donated community support, called Community Benefit, amounted to more than $60 million across the service area.