CHCs Help Baker Administration Expand Reach of Opioid Core Competencies

8-24-16 Feature Story:

The Baker-Polito Administration has partnered with the Massachusetts League of Community Health Centers and the state's advanced practice nursing and physician assistant programs and professional organizations to expand the reach and use of Massachusetts' pioneering core competencies established previously for the prevention and management of prescription drug misuse.

This set of cross-institutional core competencies will ensure advanced practice nurses and physician assistants educated in the Commonwealth, as well as community health center employees, receive enhanced training in primary, secondary, and tertiary prevention strategies regarding prescription drug misuse.

"Agreeing upon and expanding these core competency standards is another major step for the prevention and management phases of fighting the opioid epidemic," said Governor Charlie Baker. "As we search for new ways to bend the trend in this public health epidemic, we appreciate the hard work and collaboration that prescriber and academic communities have demonstrated and look forward to continuing this partnership with our nurses, physician assistants and members of the medical community."

This first-in-the-nation partnership has been expanded with the establishment of cross-institutional core competencies for the prevention and management of prescription drug misuse that will reach the approximately 2,000 enrolled APRN students, 900 enrolled physician assistant students, and the 50 community health centers representing the organizational membership of the Massachusetts League of Community Health Centers.

"Educating our clinicians on prescribing practices for opioids is critical to mitigating the opioid epidemic in the future," said Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders. "We are pleased to stand with our health care partners to further advance the training and education of our current and future health care practitioners."

The agreement follows similar partnerships with the Commonwealth's three dental schools, Massachusetts Dental Society, the Commonwealth's four medical schools and the Massachusetts Medical Society on sets of groundbreaking medical and dental education core competencies for the prevention and management of prescription drug misuse. Practitioner training about addiction and safe prescribing practices was a key strategy recommendation of the opioid working group.

"Substance misuse is a chronic disease, and we must treat it as one, starting with education of our clinicians," said Public Health Commissioner Monica Bharel, MD, MPH. "We must approach the treatment of this disease taking into account the multiple needs of the individual, not just substance misuse."

"The state's growing opiate crisis is directly related to the challenge of caring for patients' physical and behavioral health needs in an integrated way," said James W. Hunt, Jr., president and CEO of the Massachusetts League of Community Health Centers. "The Governor's Core Competencies serve as an excellent framework for making sure clinicians are well equipped to provide the addiction prevention and treatment services patients need."

"As nurse practitioners, we are pleased to have this opportunity to partner with the Governor on this important initiative," said Stephanie Ahmed, DNP, FNP-BC, DPNAP, President, Massachusetts Coalition of Nurse Practitioners. "Nurse Practitioners can play a significant role in mitigating the impact of the opioid epidemic through responsible prescribing, participation in the prescription monitoring program, educating and engaging patients around treatment options and behavioral therapy. We have made significant inroads on improving health through such targeted initiatives and I do believe we are on a path toward positive change with the implementation of the competencies and academic/practice partnerships."

"I am elated and very proud of the Physician Assistant programs in Massachusetts for taking this critical step toward addressing the opioid abuse epidemic and educating our future providers and prescribers," said Sheri Talbott MS, PA-C President, Massachusetts Association of Physician Assistants.

League President and CEO Jim Hunt, League Board Chair Sue Joss and League Past Chair Toni McGuire participated in a discussion and press availability focused on the core competencies with Governor Baker, Secretary Sudders, Commissioner Bharel and state's advanced practice nursing and physician assistant programs and professional organizations on Monday, August 22.


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