Kansas joins efforts to battle opioid epidemic

TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - A Topeka hospital is on the front lines of a national effort to find solutions to the growing number of deaths from prescription drug overdoses.

In Kansas, they were up 16 percent from 2012 to 2016 compared to the previous five years. Nearly half of those deaths were related to prescription opioid pain relievers.

The Centers for Disease Control asked Topeka's Stormont Vail to take part in two of only 10 research projects nationwide looking at how health care systems might use electronic medical records to monitor opiate use.

Dr. Eric Voth, Stormont's Vice President for Primary Care, says the health system is working to fully integrate the state's K-Tracs prescription drug monitoring system into Stormont's own electronic medical records system. It would give all providers an easy way to spot if patients are trying to fill prescriptions at multiple pharmacies.

The state also has joined in stepping up awareness efforts. Public service announcements from the CDC will soon play in parts of the state deemed at high-risk for opioid abuse. The campaign utilizes the tag line, "It only takes a little to lose a lot."

The Kansas Department of Health and Environment hopes resources from the CDC's Rx Awareness campaign can reverse what's called a public health crisis.

Drug poisonings are now the leading cause of unintentional injury death in the U.S. and is said to be the main reason life expectancy for Americans was reduced two straight years.

KDHE aims to increase awareness through videos, digital and social media.

Awareness also is key among providers. Dr. Voth says Stormont is continually educating staff on CDC guidelines, and implementing protocols that emphasize non-opiate pain control options and minimum doses.

In addition, Stormont patients who receive a narcotics prescription will sign an agreement that outlines risks and refill policies.