The problem at hand is the disheartening fact that opioids are killing American citizens by the thousands. Nearly 40,000 people died of opioid-related drug overdoses just last year (CDC, 2018). This number totals to equal about 66% of all of the drug-related overdose deaths throughout the year. Many of these individuals are prescribed medications when other non-opioid pain management interventions would be more appropriate.
There is a new bill in the works on which Occupational Therapists are helping Congress to address this problem. This new policy, which will be voted on this fall, would require the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HSS) to provide education to facilities on non-opioid pain management techniques, including occupational therapy.
There are great numbers of adult opioid-related deaths that end in more than just death for the opioid-user – many children are orphaned following their parents’ death. These children are either ending up in our foster system, or they are being raised in kinship care such as a grandparent, aunt, or uncle. There was a national 10% increase in children entering the foster care system between 2010-2016 – statistics for the last two years are still up in the air but are expected to be rising at the same rate or higher (Radel et al., 2018).
The policy that is currently making it’s way through our government, with the help of occupational therapists, is the Combatting Opioid Abuse for Care in Hospitals (COACH) Act. This policy requires HHS to provide education and in-services concerning non-opioid pain management strategies in order to prevent the number of opioid-abuse situations. To provide this education, HHS would be required to consult with inpatient hospital providers to develop the programming implemented in hospitals nationwide – occupational therapists are included in this list of providers.
Once the COACH Act is passed, lawmakers and HSS delegates must meet with providers, including occupational therapists, immediately to expedite the process of developing this programming. Hospitals need education and non-opioid pain management strategies desperately and the longer we wait, the more individuals we lose to this horrible epidemic.
Consulted resources for this blog include the American Occupational Therapy Association, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and the Center for Disease Control. Their sources are recommended for further reading. Visit AOTA and read about the COACH Act and what you can do to support it.
AOTA, S. (2018, May 21). Opioids Legislation Including Occupational Therapy Services, Advances in House Committee [Organization]. Retrieved May 20, 2018, from https://www.aota.org/Advocacy-Policy/Congressional-Affairs/Legislative-Issues-Update/2018/opioids-legislation-includes-occupational-therapy-OT-services.aspx
CDC, C. for D. C. and P. (2018, March 29). U.S. drug overdose deaths continue to rise; increase fueled by synthetic opioids [Government]. Retrieved May 20, 2018, from https://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2018/p0329-drug-overdose-deaths.html
Radel, L., Baldwin, M., Crouse, G., Ghertner, R., & Waters, A. (2018). Substance Use, the Opioid Epidemic, and the Child Welfare System: Key Findings from a Mixed Methods Study (pp. 1–9). Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation. Retrieved from https://aspe.hhs.gov/system/files/pdf/258836/SubstanceUseChildWelfareOverview.pdf