Tidelands Health joins statewide effort to combat opioid epidemic
Tidelands Health is joining a statewide effort to help combat the opioid crisis in rural communities.
The health system is one of several partners participating in an initiative led by the state Office of Rural Health that received one of 95 new planning grants from the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy.
Using the grant funding, the initiative aims to help save lives by better coordinating opioid use disorder-related prevention, treatment and recovery efforts. The health system’s role is to offer expert advice on the diagnosis and treatment of hepatitis C.
Cases of acute hepatitis C have spiked in recent years, a trend the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests is likely associated with an increase in opioid injections. This trend has been especially prevalent among young adults. Hepatitis C can be spread through infected blood and is easily transmitted through the sharing of contaminated needles.
From 2004-2014, the national rate of hepatitis C diagnoses increased 133 percent, according to the CDC. It is the leading cause of liver transplants in the U.S.
“The rise of acute hepatitis C cases in the last 10-15 years is a serious health threat, and is one of the overlooked ramifications of the opioid crisis,” said Amy Smith, a nurse practitioner at Tidelands Health Gastroenterology who specializes in diagnosis and treatment of the disease. “However, we can cure this illness. Early detection through screening of known intravenous opioid abusers and other high-risk populations, as well as treatment intervention, can help stop the spread of this disease. We have the ability to potentially eliminate hepatitis C and its threat to society.”
Participating in the state Office of Rural Health’s opioid initiative is the latest in a series of efforts undertaken by Tidelands Health to help combat the opioid crisis.
For example, the health system is participating in an innovative new peer recovery program with Shoreline Behavioral Health Services and the local chapter of Faces and Voices of Recovery, a community group that works to eliminate barriers to substance-abuse recovery.
The goal of the effort, offered at Tidelands Waccamaw Community Hospital, is to connect individuals interested in recovery with a continuum of support that starts within the hospital and continues into the community.
Last year, the health system held a symposium that drew clinicians from across the region interested in learning best practices in pain management and opioid alternatives.
And the health system is also helping fund an ongoing study to identify additional ways the community can combat the epidemic within the region.