Are Services to address Pain Management and Addiction Growing?

Yes, they are, and they need to continue to grow in order to meet pressing community demand. Chronic pain is an issue in our community and proper care and treatment can result in significant improvements in quality of life. NMC is pleased to provide specialized services, including interventional treatment, for those suffering from chronic pain. Due to the nature of some of the medications used in pain management, addiction treatment is closely linked within a comprehensive approach. In the (soon to be released) 2016 Community Health Needs Assessment, which NMC conducts in alignment with the Federal process, “Mental Health and Substance Abuse” was identified as a pressing community need. In fact, it was rated as the #1 priority by the panel of local experts who assisted in the assessment process. This ranking is consistent with the results from the prior Community Health Needs Assessment conducted three years ago. There are currently numerous efforts underway to help address this need.

As I discussed in December, we are thankful to have had Dr. Suzan White and Dr. Ryan Herrington join the team at Northwestern Comprehensive Pain. They are both now seeing patients at our location on Catherine Street in St. Albans. Dr. White graduated from the University of New England’s College of Osteopathic Medicine and did her residency training in Psychiatry at Berkshire Medical Center. Dr. Herrington earned his medical degree at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, Virginia, and his Masters in Public Health from the Ohio State University of Public Health in Columbus, Ohio. Together, they form the core of a strong team in a practice which is focused on comprehensive pain management, including addiction treatment for those in need. To make an appointment, call 524-8809.

The addiction issue is statewide – and beyond. In December, Governor Shumlin said, “In the fight against opiate addiction, Vermont has made incredible progress. But when we took on this fight, we knew the challenge was great. That hasn’t changed. We still have much work to do. We are fighting this battle on two fronts: Helping those already addicted get into treatment and recovery and stopping addiction from taking hold in the first place.” In his recent State of the State address, the Governor spoke of his concerns with how the F.D.A. (Food and Drug Administration) has handled regulations relating to OxyContin and other opiates. He outlined three initiatives for Vermont to consider as we work together addiction concerns. He proposed the idea of new restrictions on the size of prescription which doctors, dentists, or other health care providers could write for minor procedures and similar regulation relating to more major procedures. He spoke of partnering with pharmacies and communities to expand “drug take back programs.” These collaborative efforts allow individuals to safely dispose of surplus medications, which the Governor termed “Vermont’s most dangerous leftovers.” He also spoke of upgrading the Prescription Monitoring System in collaboration with neighboring states to prevent individuals to misuse prescriptions by crossing state borders. These proposals merit strong discussion and refinement by the Administration, the Legislature, healthcare providers, community partners, and all of us as involved citizens to ensure Vermont continues to move forward appropriately in our work to address addiction.

As that is happening, partners within our community continue to work together to better address addiction at the local level. NMC is involved in multiple initiatives and planning discussions with the Howard Center, Northwestern Counseling and Support Services, the State, members of the Medical Staff, and other local partners on how we can all work together to better meet community need for addiction treatment and what more we can do to help prevent addiction. We are fortunate to have such engagement throughout our community and with our elected officials. Alone, no one organization can address this issue.

— Jill Berry Bowen, NMC’s Chief Executive Officer