A top White House advisor from the White House’s Office of National Drug Control Policy traveled to coastal Oregon this past week to learn from promising work being done to mitigate the opioid crisis.
Anne Hazlett, rural affairs senior advisor for the Office of National Drug Control Policy, met on Friday with representatives of Columbia Pacific CCO, the coordinated care organization that manages the Oregon Health Plan (Medicaid) on the northwest Oregon coast, and with representatives of the community organizations that are putting opioid mitigation into practice.
Columbia Pacific CCO, a member of the CareOregon family, said it has made reducing opioid-related harms and death a high priority. Its focus has been on raising public awareness of opioid risks, reducing inappropriate opioid prescribing, identifying individuals at high risk; intervening to divert from chronic use, and treating opioid use disorder and dependence
“With Columbia Pacific CCO’s leadership, we’ve been able to develop medication-assisted treatment (MAT) from one small service in Columbia County to programs in every county,” said Leslie Ford, CareOregon Behavioral Health Clinical Integration Advisor.
“It is equally important to develop alternatives to opioids for treating chronic pain, as we have with the Wellness Centers in each of the Columbia Pacific CCO counties — Clatsop, Columbia and Tillamook,” Ford said. “And the role of developing partnerships to get the work done is critical and a strength of the CCO.”
Hazlett visited the Tillamook County Community Health Center to learn about the MAT program as well as the offices of Clatsop Behavioral Healthcare and the MAT partnership between Clatsop Behavioral Health and Columbia Memorial Hospital. There was also a visit to Seaside at the site of the new methadone clinic.
“Access to treatment in rural areas is a high priority for this Administration,” Hazlett said. “The innovative activity in Clatsop and Tillamook County to address this tremendous need is an exciting example of harnessing local assets to build healthy, drug-free communities now and for generations to come.”
Additionally, Hazlett heard of the role the CCO has played in leading the effort to build partnerships and provide critical funding to get opioid mitigation programs launched.
“Overall, we spoke of the work Columbia Pacific has helped to lead, and partner with clinical and community partners to help the communities address the opioid epidemic and truly start to turn the tide by starting MAT programs in a region where a few years ago, there were hardly any,” said Safina Korieshi, MD, Medical Director, Columbia Pacific CCO.
Hazlett was able to witness firsthand the barriers that rural communities face, such as geography span, transportation, recruitment and retention, when they try to expand services in regions where the services are so lacking yet very much needed.
The organizations who are starting these services are on the forefront of changing and saving lives. The work that CareOregon and Columbia Pacific CCO are doing helps inform those who are attempting to address the crisis that has overwhelmed medical and behavioral health resources and is especially challenging in rural areas.
Established in September 2012, Columbia Pacific CCO, a member of the CareOregon family, coordinates health services for more than 23,000 Oregon Health Plan members in Columbia, Clatsop and Tillamook counties. For more information, please visit www.colpachealth.org.