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Opioid Use Disorder the Main Focus at Baystate Franklin Medical Center's Summit

March 12, 2019
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Photo: Paul Franz, Greenfield Recorder

“I am only one of 150 or so moms losing their children to this disease every day,” said Cara Moser, after reading a passage from the eulogy she wrote for her daughter Eliza Harper.  “Too many mothers are saying exactly same things at their children’s funerals every day.”

“Individually we experience our own family’s struggle, but collectively we all face the same obstacles. Now, in the aftermath of my daughter’s death, I’m left with, what can I do about the obstacles? How do we spare this generation from further pain and suffering and monumental loss of life, and the consequential effects to their families?”

Photo collage at the funeral of Eliza Harper, who died of an accidental opioid overdosePhoto: Sarah Crosby, Daily Hampshire Gazette

Harper had been battling opioid use disorder for five years and was working tirelessly in her recovery. “She was proud and excited about how well she was doing, how well things were going, how she had her life back, and was looking forward to her future,” said Moser. Despite her best efforts and the unwavering support of her family, Eliza died of an accidental overdose on November 30, her 26th birthday.

Cara Moser at her daughter Eliza Harper's funeral
Photo: Sarah Crosby, Daily Hampshire Gazette

Last week, as she stood in a room at Baystate Franklin Medical Center in front of more than 60 individuals from 25 different organizations, Moser carefully outlined the barriers and obstacles that Harper and her family faced and her hopes for the future.

“Ultimately, I want to see a health care system that supports and guides people with mental illness and substance abuse disorder in crisis, or not in crisis, through to their recovery. A recovery that is long-lived, not experienced in short spontaneous spurts of maintenance and crisis measures. A recovery with dependable continuity of care which is available to all. A system that spares and saves lives. A system that protects families from trauma. A system that protects communities and neighborhoods from spread of disease. A system that educates the public about the disease process of addiction. A system that helps people let go of the shame and embarrassment of stigma. And I, very personally, would like to see a system that would allow a safe place for a user to use if they are relapsing and struggling to get better, or for that person that isn’t ready to enter treatment; a bridge of sorts to help keep people alive until that broken health care system is fixed and functioning and in place.”

The mission of the summit, entitled Pain, Suffering and Medication Assisted Treatment, is to begin building that bridge.

The first in a series, the summit was a working meeting of stakeholders focused specifically on the provision of care for individuals with opioid use disorder, considering a population health model of care which integrates medicine, social services and behavioral health.

Physicians, nurses, clinicians, support staff, educators and state agency representatives came together to discuss strategies for the better management of pain, mental health and social determinants of health for those suffering with the chronic disease of opioid use disorder in Franklin County and the North Quabbin area. Stakeholder discussions were designed to learn best practices, lessons learned, training needs and potential timeline for the implementation of a bridge clinic. The clinic will be staffed by Baystate Franklin Medical Center, under the direction of Cheryl Pascucci, RN, MS, FNP-BC, and will collaborate with existing services in the community.

Pascucci organized the summit after being inspired by her experience using a population health model of care with the grant funded CHART program, which recently ended. She emphasized the need for collaboration and communication, and approaching the issues with a focus on personal relationships.

“What is most important about today is that we are going to look at solutions and feel better about taking this on,” Pascucci said. “Getting to know someone, having a relationship over time, and hearing their narrative is how you make decisions about their care. It’s up to all of us to take an assessment of the whole situation in order to not just lead someone down the path, but to walk beside them.”

Additional presenters included Carol Curtis, MSN, CNS, National Pain Management Specialty, Sara Cummings, Director of Community Services at Community Action of Pioneer Valley and Lisa Pineo, LMHC, CPGS, Director of Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinic.

"The opioid epidemic continues to be devastating in rural Franklin County and the North Quabbin Region as we had a record number of opioid-related fatal overdoses last year," said Debra McLaughlin, Coordinator of the Opioid Task Force of Franklin County and the North Quabbin Region. "Today's gathering helps magnify the unique and essential role medical professionals play to help patients and their families impacted by opioid misuse."

In his introduction to the group of attendees, the hospital’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Kinan Hreib said “I hope you get to know each other because we need solutions that come from you, continuously developing and evolving and make it work for everyone.”

“We have great resources and a lot of people that care and this is the time to leverage that, invest in it, develop it, whatever it takes.”