NEW ALBANY – To help combat the rising risk of an opioid epidemic in Mississippi, Baptist Memorial Hospital-Union County is changing the way it dispenses narcotic pain medicine to patients in the hospital’s emergency room. As of June 19, ER providers will be strictly limiting the use of narcotics to treat chronic pain, or pain that lasts longer than three months or past the time of tissue healing.

The policy does not affect cases of acute, short-time pain.

“Our doctors over the past two years have been very cautious with the administration of narcotics and opioids so this is not a big change,” Baptist Administrator and CEO Walter Grace said.

The new policy is in line with a recommendation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that narcotic pain medications should not be used in any form in the ER to treat chronic pain.

“We have been working several months to see what the best approach is,” Randy White, chief nursing officer, said.

Grace praised the CDC’s effort in providing a base. “They did an outstanding job,” he said.

“Rather than treat chronic pain with narcotic pain medication, we will treat with non-narcotic pain medicine (such as Toradol, an NSAID) and/or alternate means of relieving pain such as ice, positioning, or splinting,” said ER Medical Director Dr. Robert Pitcock.

Patients who need opioid medication for new, acute pain, or pain where the cause is known, lasting less than three months and that disappears when an injury or illness heals, will receive up to a three-day supply at the provider’s discretion. Patients will receive the lowest effective dosage prescribed for the shortest period of time, says the policy.

“This will be very effective and still provide a high level of patient care,” White said of the policy.

The new policy states that with the many serious side effects and the risk of addiction, “chronic pain management is safest through a primary care provider or specialist.” Patients will be given a list of those providers if requested.

“People do come here hurting,” Pitcock said. “They don’t know what else to do.” And they have not been getting support from agencies.

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