House Passes Bergen Rep.‘s Alternatives To Opioid Legislation


BERGEN COUNTY, NJ — The U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation that expands a groundbreaking program designed to reduce the use and prescription of opioids in treating pain in hospital emergency rooms.

The Alternatives to Opioids in the Emergency Department Act establishes a three-year demonstration program to test alternative pain management protocols to limit the use of opioids in hospital emergency departments. The legislation would provide grant funding for hospitals to help build the programs.

The program is modeled after the Alternatives to Opiates (ALTO) program at St. Joseph’s Regional Medical Center in Paterson.

Patients needing pain-reduction treatment are treated in the medical center’s emergency room not with opiates, but with alternative medications and physical therapy. Patients often turn to heroin as a cheaper alternative to opiates once their prescription runs out.

Rather than prescribe an opiate like Oxycodone, which simply dull and numb one’s senses, physicians try and eliminate the pain at the source first.

Dr. Mark Rosenberg, chairman of Emergency Medicine at St. Joseph’s, developed St. Joseph’s ALTO program.

“We attack the pain exactly where it is,” Rosenberg previously said. “If I never give an opiate to someone, that person will never become an addict.”

Rep. Bill Pascrell (NJ-9th) is the bill’s primary sponsor.

“What St. Joe’s helped start in Paterson will soon be saving lives across America,” Pascrell said in a news release. “With strong bipartisan support, our bill will help implement novel, preventative measures that have proven so effective in my hometown in pulling Americans away from opioid dependence.”

Following the completion of the three-year trial period, the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services will submit a report to Congress on the results and issue recommendations for broader implementation.

“This is a tremendous step forward in addressing the national opioid crisis, bringing evidence-based solutions to the first point of contact for thousands of Americans every day,” Rosenberg said.

Physical therapy has become a more popular technique of treating pain by doctors outside of emergency rooms as well.

“As a physical therapist, the big thing I find that works is education and getting patients to understand exactly what the pain is, why they have it and how they can go about treating it without relying on pills,” Dr. Igor Voloshin previously said.

The U.S. Center for Disease Control shows that 42,000 Americans died from opioid overdoses in 2016. More than 2,200 died in New Jersey.

In Bergen County, 111 people died of opioid- and heroin-related overdoses in 2017.

Companion legislation in the U.S. Senate is sponsored by New Jersey Sens. Cory Booker, Bob Menendez, both Democrats, and three others. Provisions from that bill have been approved by the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions. The legislation awaits action on the Senate floor.

Posted June 13 2018 at 3:50 PM Permanent Link

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