Center for Excellence in Public Health participates in Governor’s annual Opioid Response Summit

Two entities of the University of New England Center for Excellence in Public Health (CEPH) recently presented virtual posters at Maine Gov. Janet Mills’ Opioid Response Summit held on July 23.

Presentations were made by the Maine Substance Use Prevention Services (SUPS) program and the Northern New England Clinical Champions Program (NNE-CCP).

Planning for the virtual summit was no small feat due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, said Becky Ireland, senior program coordinator for Maine Substance Use Prevention Services at UNE.

“Holding this year’s virtual Maine Governor’s Opioid Response Summit shows that people have not forgotten the pervasive impact substance misuse has on the health, safety, and success of individuals, families, and communities,” Ireland said. “At a time when so much seems out of our control, it was empowering to hear from so many who are working in innovative ways to overcome the opioid epidemic and improve public health.”

UNE’s SUPS program is part of the Maine Prevention Services, an initiative of the Maine Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. By working together and utilizing data-driven efforts to meet community needs, SUPS community partners work to reduce misuse of prescription medications and lessen the burden of opioid misuse and treatment on communities.

The program aims to achieve these goals by promoting the safe storage and disposal of prescription drugs; educating people about the harmful impacts of misusing prescriptions; and promoting the biannual National Prescription Drug Take Back Days.

The NNE-CCP has a similar purpose. The program, funded by a Health Resources and Services Administration grant, is an opportunity for physician assistants, osteopathic physicians, and allopathic physicians to develop new or to support existing opioid use disorder (OUD) or substance use disorder (SUD) programming for their patients and communities at their clinical sites. The program strengthens solutions to these disorders by training these professionals to become “clinical champion leaders.”

With a two-year commitment, “champions” develop competencies in leadership, team-based integrated health care, quality improvement, population health, social determinants of health, health policy, and education.

“UNE is proud to offer an innovative program that directly supports primary care providers who are actively treating people with substance use disorder. It’s a privilege that we are able to offer this unique opportunity to New England’s health care safety-net,” said Selma Holden, M.D., M.P.H., M.S., assistant professor in the College of Osteopathic Medicine and project director of the NNE-CCP at UNE.

The NNE-CCP graduated its first cohort of clinical champion leaders in July. The cohort included emerging clinical leaders from federally qualified health centers located in Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont. NNE-CCP graduates also included alumni from UNE COM and UNE’s Physician Assistant program.

As a culminating requirement of the NNE-CCP, clinical champions are to complete a health care transformation project at their respective sites under the guidance of NNE-CCP mentors, Holden and Lisa Letourneau, M.D., M.P.H. Completed projects from this cohort addressed the following topics: community-based, referral sources; implementation of a Naloxone program; expanding screening tools; and increasing access to medication-assisted treatment services, among others.

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