Berks

Linking efforts In the battle against opioid abuse

Linking efforts In the battle against...

WEST READING, Pa. - The nation's opioid epidemic is worsening. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 25 percent of overdoses in 2015 were linked to heroin in comparison with six percent in 1999.

In Berks County, experts are searching for ways to stop the problem.

"The only shot sometimes we have of getting people into treatment is when they're on death's door in the emergency room," said Dr. Charles Barbera, Reading Hospital's chairman of emergency medicine.

Reading Health System held a community summit on Friday to link those on the front lines in the battle against opioid abuse. Speakers ranged from state officials to doctors and law enforcement.

"This is not just affecting just one sector of health care, but is actually something that is all around us," said Dr. Nick Obiri, Reading Hospital's chief of neonatology.

In August 2016, the state named Reading Hospital one of the 45 'Centers of Excellence,' or a COE. The centers provide physical care and emotional support for people who are addicted to opioids.

"My understanding is that half a million dollars per COE per year," said Dr. William Santoro, the chief of Reading Hospital's section of addiction medicine. "This is seed money to get the programs up and running that are going to go on continuously afterwards."

The event addressed the need to focus on patient care as well as the care of babies born addicted to drugs.

"At any given time, there are two to four infants in our nursery withdrawing. This past year, we delivered almost 40 babies that were addicted," said Dr. Mark Woodland, Reading Hospital's OBGYN chair.

Speakers at the summit stressed the importance of breaking down stigmas. One way to do so is by eliminating the word "addict."

"To call someone an addict is to call someone the disease. You're saying the person has become the disease," Santoro said.

Speakers also asked the public questions to further the growing conversation.


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