UM Shore Regional Health Forms Regional Task Force on Opioid Abuse.

| July 20, 2017 | 1 Comment

The Regional Opioid Task Force met at UM Shore Medical Center at Easton on July 10, 2017. Shown are: front row, l. to r., Anne George, Mary Alice Vanhoy, Sharon Dundon, Ruth Ann Jones, Fredia Wadley, MD, Diane Walbridge, Ryan Foster, Bryan Ebling, Judy Blockston-Micheliche, Patti Willis and Joseph Ciotola; and back row, l. to r., Scott Haas, Walter Atha, MD, Roger Harrell, John Mistrangelo, Kathleen McGrath, Rob Carroll, Brian LeCates, Andy Robinson, Wayne Darrell and Anna Sierra. Not shown: Eric Anderson, MD, Kevin Chapple, Jaclyn Crawford, Don D’Aquila, Jessica Goodell, William Huffner, MD, Joe Jones, Steven Koch, Scott LeRoy, Tasha McNutt, Leland Spencer, MD, Andy Robertson, Clay Stamp, Cathy Weber and Tasha McNutt.



University of Maryland Shore Regional Health has convened a regional opioid task force that includes representatives of county health departments and emergency services as well as emergency and behavioral health physicians and nurses and hospital officials. Led by Walter Atha, MD, regional director of Emergency Medicine for UM SRH, and Roger Harrell, Dorchester County Health Officer, the Regional Opioid Task Force was formed to coordinate and standardize the medical community responses to the rising incidence of opioid and heroin overdose in Caroline, Dorchester, Kent, Queen Anne’s and Talbot counties.

Over the three-year period 2014-2016, visits to UM SRH Emergency Departments (Chestertown, Dorchester, Easton and Queenstown) for heroin/opiate poisoning more than doubled, from 90 to 187. These poisonings were caused by overdose of heroin, methadone, opiates and opium.

“We saw a need to share information and integrate the responses of EMS and public health agencies with those of Shore Regional Health’s emergency departments and behavioral health services,” says Dr. Atha. “Our goal is to coordinate our responses and improve the care and outcomes for patients with opioid and/or heroin overdose.”

Adds Roger Harrell, “Each of the five counties has established an Opioid Operational Command Center Structure that includes a health and medical branch. Shore Regional Health is to have a seat at this branch. Recognizing that the objectives of this branch are consistent with our Regional Opioid Task Force convened by the health system, the county health officers agreed that the work for our health and medical branch could be more efficiently and effectively managed through the task force. And, the Regional Task Force provides for a broader perspective with input from other disciplines within the system that could not be effectively integrated through the work of each individual Operational Command Center.”

The Regional Opioid Task Force, which includes 35 members, began meeting in June, 2017 and is addressing a number of issues, for example: improving the opioid/heroin overdose response process in emergency care settings in a way that will support the likelihood of overdose patients’ accepting treatment for their addiction; identifying and implementing strategies to improve the likelihood of patients’ successful referral to treatment; involving law enforcement in the process at the health care level; and sharing the data needed to assess opioid and heroin overdose trends and outcomes of EMS and hospital responses to overdose. The task force also is reviewing the continuum of care for post-overdose patients, from emergency care to detox and long-term support.

“The Regional Opioid Task Force is an excellent example of the ways in which Shore Regional Health’s partnerships with public, private and nonprofit entities in our five-county region will strengthen the overall health of our communities,” says William H. Huffner, MD, senior vice president, Medical Affairs and chief medical officer for UM SRH. “Our emergency and behavioral health providers, along with law enforcement, EMS personnel and our county health departments, are all on the front line of the overdose epidemic. By working together, we hope to stem the tide and provide better, more coordinated care that supports successful outcomes for patients suffering from the disease of addiction.”


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  1. Mary brecheen says:

    Addiction can start with a simple need like wisdom teeth extraction. No dentist will take our medical cards on eastern shore. Kids are hurting bad.

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