Let’s Call It: Death Reduction –
Oct. 31, 2019 – Since the state-funded project began, the number of patients treated for opioid use disorder at the Center for Family Medicine has grown from 46 to nearly 100. The team has gone from providing team-based care half a day once a month to once a week. In addition, the center has hired a second therapist and a full-time nurse case manager “to provide more consistent care for our patients,” Ball explained. Since the treatment program started, only one patient has died of an overdose. “These are high-risk patients,” she pointed out. Through state funding, Ball and her team also hope to work with police departments, jails and emergency rooms to identify patients who could benefit from this type of treatment.
“One of the biggest misconceptions about addiction is that it is a choice,” Ball said. “Most people who become addicted do so after the first couple of doses.” Furthermore, personal history and genetics can increase the likelihood of becoming addicted, she continued. “From 80% to 90% of the patients we see have had adverse childhood experiences, including poverty and sexual, physical or emotional abuse.”
Wolfgang said, “There is not just one story to be told—we see a little bit of everything. Maybe today a patient is using heroin, but it started from a knee injury and then progressed to illicit drugs when the patient became addicted and could not continue on prescriptions. Though the numbers in South Dakota are low compared to the national average, it does not feel like it for those impacted by opioid addiction.”