A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Hospital coalition, including St. Elizabeth, and state cabinet launch statewide assault on opioid epidemic


The National Institute on Drug Abuse ranks Kentucky among the top 10 states with the highest opioid-related overdose deaths, and Kentucky’s hospitals are on the frontline in the fight to help the state recover. To assist the state’s hospitals in this battle, the Kentucky Hospital Association (KHA) is partnering with the Cabinet for Health and Family Services as part of the Kentucky Opioid Response Effort (KORE) to launch the Kentucky Statewide Opioid Stewardship (KY SOS) program.

Dr. Phillip Chang, chief medical officer at UK HealthCare, will chair an advisory committee to develop standards for the program. The committee is comprised of clinical experts in emergency medicine, addictions treatment, pharmacy, and nursing, along with hospital administration and a former patient. These experts, along with KHA staff, will assist the state’s hospitals with implementation and will gather data to track their progress.

Dr. Phillip Chang

Additionally, this initiative will provide a voluntary certification opportunity for Kentucky hospitals to demonstrate their actions and commitments to their patients and communities in combating the state’s opioid epidemic.

Opioid stewardship involves a coordinated effort to reduce opioid-related harm by developing alternative means to manage pain and, when opioids are used, assuring that opioid prescribing and patient monitoring aligns with evidence-based guidelines. KY SOS will focus on reducing opioid overprescribing and improving safe opioid use by providing hospitals and health systems with education and resources on how to attain the highest level of performance on opioid stewardship. 
 
Among the 62 hospitals that have made a commitment to the program is St. Elizabeth Healthcare.

St. Elizabeth has been leading the assault on the opioid epidemic in Northern Kentucky. It’s CEO Garren Colvin and two physicians are service on the KORE group and will be able to share leadership and expertise.

“We are committed to helping the communities we serve and helping lead Northern Kentucky to become one of the healthiest communities in America,” says Garren Colvin, President and CEO of St. Elizabeth Healthcare.

“Reducing the opioid epidemic in our region has emerged as one of our key goals toward that mission. During the past five years, we have been on the forefront of this battle.”

Facilities continue to join the ranks of those who have committed to the work.

“This is the first statewide program of its kind where all hospitals in Kentucky collaborate together to combat the opioid crisis at its root – inappropriate or excess opioid prescribing,” said Chang. “We will leverage data, analytics and the spirit of healthy competition amongst Kentucky hospitals to reduce and eliminate opioid addiction while still ensuring adequate pain control. This preventive work will complement the tremendous efforts through our state on recovery, rehabilitation and harm reduction.”

“We at the Cabinet for Health and Families Services are incredibly gratified that KHA and Kentucky hospitals are taking a leadership role in solving one of the most destructive public health care crises in our commonwealth,” noted Dr. Allen J. Brenzel, medical director for the Kentucky Department for Behavioral Health, Developmental and Intellectual Disabilities, which is overseeing the KORE program.

“Promoting the appropriate prescribing of opioids is a critical prevention strategy that will decrease the number of individuals who are at risk of progressing to a life-threatening opioid use disorder. This initiative will most certainly save lives.”

KHA President Mike Rust stated, “Kentucky hospitals are committed to working toward improving opioid stewardship collectively, and ultimately reducing the risk of addiction for their patients. KHA is proud to support the hospitals as they continue to provide high-quality health care and further demonstrate their dedication to the communities they serve.”

Nancy Galvagni of UKHealthcare and staff report


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One Comment

  1. Gary Lefevers says:

    This makes me so angry. Rx deaths are nit even in the top 12 nationwide causes of death. However, suicide is. Up over 30% last year alone due to cowardly politicians and their middle of the nigh law then ending with the national government putting overly seiver restrictions on honors chronic pain patients.

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