GRMC ED Team Aims for Opioid Prevention

The staff in the Emergency Department (ED) of Garrett Regional Medical Center (GRMC), an affiliate of WVU Medicine, is working to address the opioid crisis in Garrett County and the surrounding region using an electronic prescription database in conjunction with a strict limited narcotics prescription policy.

Karen Hershfeld, PAC, is leading GRMC’s efforts to develop improved policies and procedures regarding pain medications prescribed to patients in the ED. Working with GRMC’s Emergency Department  physicians and using evidence based medicine, Hershfeld is changing prescribing patterns and focusing on a limited narcotics policy. This policy establishes the use of narcotics as the prescription of last resort, with medical staff looking at all options before resorting to narcotics for pain relief. In addition, the ED staff also utilizes an electronic database system of narcotic prescriptions developed by the State of Maryland, which enables staff to monitor previous drug prescriptions before administering or prescribing follow up medication. The combination of the new limited narcotics policy combined with the database information is helping the ED avoid prescriptions that may lead to addiction or abuse by vulnerable individuals.

“Prevention is key in this fight against opioid addiction in our community,” says Hershfeld. “It is more effective to focus on preventing addiction rather than treatment or incarceration.”

Prevention not only impedes addiction, it also helps manage the costs associated with addiction and abuse. Substance abuse costs the US over $600 billion annually.  Drug addiction deterrence and treatment not only reduces drug use but the health and social costs linked to it. According to a 2016 report from the Surgeon General, every dollar that is invested in drug prevention yields a return of $4 for treatment and $7 from incarceration.

Hershfeld has teamed up with other local members of the Drug Free Coalition to advocate working together and focusing on prevention as the leading method of fighting the epidemic. The Garrett County Health Department has medically assisted treatment programs for those seeking help with their addiction.

Hershfeld notes that there are many steps in winning the fight against this crisis.

“Focus on preventive actions, access to better treatment and proper overdose responses are all crucial steps in gaining control of this epidemic,” said Hershfeld.  “But it doesn’t stop there.  This community needs to work as a team to provide Narcan training, expanded options for recovery resources, and better mental health treatment.  We have the ability to make a huge impact in our community by helping families avoid the incredibly negative consequences of opioid addiction.”

For information about community efforts to fight drug addiction, visit the Garrett County Drug Free Communities Coalition website at, or attend the next Drug Free Communities Action meeting, scheduled to take place Wednesday, August 16, 2017, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at Garrett College CIEC Building Room 111.

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