Dixie Regional plasters messages across hospital campus in campaign against opioid abuse

ST. GEORGE – Spots on the floor, walls, tabletops and even elevator doors in parts of Dixie Regional Medical Center have become a part of a systemwide public awareness campaign aimed at preventing opioid medication abuse.

St. George mayor Jon Pike speaks at a press conference unveiling a new public awareness campaign by Intermountain Healthcare and its partners aimed at preventing opioid abuse. Dixie Regional Medical Center, St. George, Utah, Oct. 10, 2017 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

“In Utah, six people die each week from opioid abuse,” St. George Mayor Jon Pike said during a press conference held at the hospital Tuesday.

In the St. George area between 2014-15, local media reported that 33 people had died from opioid overdoses, he said.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, opioid abuses killed 646 people in Utah. These deaths are counted among the over 15,000 Americans who died from overdoses involving prescription opioids that same year.

Behind Pike as he speaks is a segment of wall that has been painted blue and covered in numerous spots that, upon closer examination, are pills of various shape, size and color. In the middle of the cascade of pills that look like they could be falling like rain from the ceiling is another statistic: “Utahns fill over 7,000 opioid prescriptions every day.”

On the inside of elevator doors nearby is a prompting to patients to ask their doctors about opioid medication before it’s prescribed with questions like: “Am I at risk for addictions?” “Will something else work?” and “Are you prescribing the lowest possible dose?”

Intermountain Healthcare and its partners unveiled a new public awareness campaign by aimed at preventing opioid abuse. The new campaign involves putting graphic and posters related to statistics and facts about opioid abuse and how to avoid it on the floors, walls, tabletops and even elevator doors inside parts of Dixie Regional Medical Center, St. George, Utah, Oct. 10, 2017 | Photo courtesy of Intermountain Healthcare, St. George News

Elsewhere a large circle on the ground shows a graphic of a typical pill bottle with an arrow pointing to a box where unused prescriptions can be dropped off. Underneath are the words “THROW OUT” and “There’s no such thing as safe leftovers” accompanied by another statistic stating 74 percent of Utahns who are addicted to opioids end up getting the drugs from family or friends.

“Intermountain Healthcare is working an initiative to help reduce prescription opioid abuse and misuse and make sure people are using their prescriptions in the right way,” said Amber Rich, Intermountain Healthcare’s Southwest Regional Community health manager.

“Prescriptions can be a powerful healing tool if used correctly,” Rich said. In contrast, she said, the medication’s abuse is claiming more lives than illegal drugs.

While educating the public about how widespread and devastating opioid about is, Intermountain Healthcare officials hope to prevent overdose tragedies that have become a seemingly regular occurrence.

Intermountain Healthcare and its partners unveiled a new public awareness campaign by aimed at preventing opioid abuse. Dixie Regional Medical Center, St. George, Utah, Oct. 10, 2017 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

Working with SelectHealth, Use Only As Directed and the Washington County Prevention organizations, Rich said Intermountain Healthcare is engaging in a three-pronged campaign with the following messages:

  • Only use the prescriptions as directed and do not share them with others.
  • Keep medication safely out of reach and locked down when not being used. Doing so can help prevent “pharming,” or the practice of others going through medicine cabinets of friends and family looking for opioid medications.
  • Throw out unused pills so they can’t be potentially abused and misused. This can be accomplished through depositing the unused medications into drop boxes at area police stations, Dixie Regional or Stapley Pharmacy in St. George, Cedar City Hospital and Downtown Pharmacy in Cedar City.

To support the proper disposal of prescription medication, Dixie Regional and Cedar City Hospital have worked alongside local prevention coalitions and law enforcement to provide “Drug Take Back” events. The next event is scheduled for Oct. 28 in the Smith’s parking lot at both the St. George and Cedar City locations.

Around 30-40 years ago, opioid-based drugs were not used enough, said Dr. Steven Van Norman, Intermountain Healthcare’s Southwest Regional Chief Medical Director. Today, he said, opioid abuse is “at a different extreme.”

Citing a survey Intermountain Healthcare conducted focusing on how many opioid pills it fills in prescriptions, Van Norman said 19 million pills are prescribed annually. Of that amount, only around half is used.

Intermountain Healthcare and its partners unveiled a new public awareness campaign by aimed at preventing opioid abuse. Dixie Regional Medical Center, St. George, Utah, Oct. 10, 2017 | Photo courtesy of Intermountain Healthcare, St. George News

“That’s a pretty staggering number,” Van Norman said.

There are signs of hope, however. Van Norman said Intermountain Healthcare has seen a 10 percent decline in opioid use since February. Officials seek to increase that percentage decline as Intermountain Healthcare implements a plan to reduce opioid tablet prescriptions by 40 percent in the coming year.

While other statistics related to the opioid epidemic were shared at the press conference, Pike asked those gathered to remember that behind each number is a human being.

“These numbers are alarming,” Pike said, “but as you think about it, behind each one of those numbers is a person. It’s a husband, it’s a father, it’s a mother, it’s a daughter, it’s a friend, it’s another loved one. … I hope that we remember that behind each number, each prescription, is a person.”

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Email: mkessler@stgnews.com

Twitter: @MoriKessler

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2017, all rights reserved.

 

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1 Comment

  • darkgoddess October 12, 2017 at 5:46 am

    I remember this paradigm shift – “pain is what the patient says it is”. And you wonder why we have an opioid epidemic now. I’m not saying we shouldn’t treat chronic pain for those who truly have it, but people need to understand that you can’t always be totally pain-free. That’s not realistic, and taking narcotics for most pain is not necessary. Here’s a link for an interesting read:
    http://www.kevinmd.com/blog/2016/10/making-pain-vital-sign-caused-opioid-crisis-heres.html

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