As the battle against the opioid epidemic in Kentucky and the U.S. rages on, Jennie Stuart Health continues to find ways to battle the epidemic in Christian County and surrounding counties.

In April, Jennie Stuart officially joined the Kentucky Statewide Opioid Stewardship program to help continue fighting the issue with 92 other Kentucky hospitals.

To help the state's hospitals in this battle, the Kentucky Hospital Association is partnering with the Cabinet for Health and Family Services as part of the Kentucky Opioid Response Effort to launch the KY SOS program.

The initiative is intended to provide a mechanism for hospitals to demonstrate their actions and commitments to their patients and communities to combat the state's opioid epidemic, according to the KHA website.

Kentucky is ranked in the top 10 in the nation for the highest opioid-related overdose deaths and continues to be a large concern and area of focus for various health agencies across the nation and Kentucky, the KHA reports.

As part of the KY SOS, Jennie Stuart will continue to work on reducing opioid overprescribing and improving safe opioid use, as well as finding alternatives to manage pain rather than prescribing opioids.

"We have an internal collaborative team and it's multidisciplinary (to help with KY SOS and combating the opioid epidemic)," said Betsi Scroggins, the assistant vice president of Nursing Services.

"It's not just a nursing thing. It's made of physicians, quality department, lots of representatives from the nursing department, several pharmacists, folks from the surgery department and informatics department."

Scroggins said the internal team has been working hard to educate patients of the risk of using opioids and what the alternatives to receiving opioids are, as well as reducing the amount of opioids prescribed from the hospital.

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They also are actively working on educating patients on what to look for, what to do when a patient is done with their prescription, disposing of them properly, how to keep their medication safe, how to safely use the medication and even signs of addiction for family members.

"We want to make sure any opioids prescribed are done in a safe manner," Scroggins said. "Monitor the amounts that are given and offer alternatives to opioids. There's lots of non-medication treatments for pain that people have kind of gotten away from."

She shared some alternatives are using heat, ice, massage therapy and several other strategies that can be used to lessen the need for opioids when dealing with pain.

Another alternative Jennie Stuart has been practicing for sometime is using nerve block practices that act as anesthesia rather than using opioids for surgeries.

Specifically working on finding ways to reduce opioid prescriptions and use is a large focus of Jennie Stuart in fighting the crisis.

"I've been a nurse for 34 years and opioids have been overly prescribed for a very long time," Scroggins said. "It has gotten worse but I'm really glad we are tackling this. It's far over due."

Kathi Ferguson, director of Infection Control and Quality, said educating the public and Jennie Stuart's patients is just as important as utilizing alternatives to prescribing opioids.

"I think through improving our patient education we can assist those people," she said. "There's lots of things we want to try to educate our patients and eventually get to the public that will help them recognize factors and help them be better educated (about the opioid epidemic)."

As a member of KY SOS, Jennie Stuart will receive additional resources and education on opioid stewardship, access to clinical advisors and subject matter experts who can assist with improvement questions and provide recommendations, access to the Kentucky Quality Counts data system to track progress on applicable measures and support and coordination from KHA, according to a press release.

Scroggins said not only is Jennie Stuart currently partnered with the state through KY SOS, they also are part of a nation-wide work group to fight the opioid crisis. Scroggins said through that partnership Jennie Stuart is able to share what other hospitals are doing in the fight against opioids and how they can utilize the best practices possible.

Jennie Stuart has been a part of that collaboration for about eight months, she said.

"It's a crisis nationwide and we want to do our part. We're here for the community and we're here for our patients," Scroggins said. "We certainly want to do our part to educate everybody so we can decrease this epidemic."

Reach Avery Seeger at 270-887-3236 or aseeger@kentuckynewera.com. Follow him on Twitter @AveryNewEra

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