Pharmacy techThe misuse of prescribed and non-prescribed opioids has led to a rise in deaths and created a ripple effect for increased hospitalization and healthcare costs. Although education, resources, and policies have been developed for prescribing opioid medication, Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) can offer a specific focus on treating opioid and other addictions including tobacco and alcohol.

Having resources and tools to identify and promote early-stage treatment of addiction allows providers to utilize the correct therapies and reduce dependence on opioids. As a result of Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) grant funds, Avera hosted a half-day training in Sioux Falls, SD, called Beyond the Waiver: Addiction and Opioid Use Disorder Training for Health Care Professionals. The event featured Stephen Delisi, MD, DABAM, FASAM, assistant dean for Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation and addressed the need for limiting the supply of prescription opioids in circulation, raising awareness of the risk of opioid addiction, identifying and treating opioid-dependent individuals and collaborating closely with community efforts.

Linda Penisten, program manager for Great Plains QIN“I attended the ‘Beyond the Waiver’ presentation and was astounded by the gravity of change in the situation within less than ten years,” stated Linda Penisten, RNC, OTR/L, program manager for Great Plains Quality Innovation Network (QIN. “The presentation stressed the importance of early detection of addiction, along with the significance of implementing community efforts to reduce opioid abuse.”


According to the 2018 National Drug Threat Assessment from the Drug Enforcement Administration, drug poisoning deaths are the leading cause of injury death in the United States.  Currently at the highest recorded level, drug poisoning death has outnumbered death by firearms, motor vehicle crashes, suicide and homicide every year since 2011.

Nationally, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and the Health Resources and Services Administration Center for Integrated Health Solutions (SAMHSA-HRSA CIHS) works closely with communities and healthcare organizations to reduce substance abuse and mental illness.  Other regional efforts include the collaboration of the Great Plains QIN and the South Dakota Department of Health to promote the prescription opioid abuse prevention initiative. This state initiative’s strategic plan aims to achieve the following goals: detect early abuse, increase resources and awareness for treatment and recovery, reduce illicit supply, and create a response to opioid misuse and abuse. As the work for implementing the initiative continues, both entities will seek engagement with providers in order to increase education and provide resources for MAT.

Penisten added, “The opioid epidemic can be appropriately addressed by using and incorporating early detection for MAT to improve health and achieve better outcomes. I hope that providers will consider advancing their practice and become more knowledgeable in the specialty of serving those with addictions.”