Maine's Director of Opioid Response gets update on Northern Light Health opioid initiatives

Date: 02/05/2021

In December, Gordon Smith, Director of Opioid Response for the state of Maine, attended a virtual meeting of the Northern Light Health Opioid Resources Committee, a group comprised of experts in substance use disorder treatment, emergency medicine, community health, government relations, planning and strategy, and grant writing.

The group's goal is to align all Northern Light Health's activities in addressing the opioid epidemic with the goals outlined in Governor Mills’s Opioid Epidemic Executive Order. Several members of the group provided updates to Smith on the work accomplished in 2020.

Jesse Higgins, NP, director of psychiatry, Integrated Behavioral Health, Northern Light Acadia Hospital, explained that Acadia's outpatient clinic is working to create a hub and spoke program with Northern Light Eastern Maine Medical Center Primary Care. "We have a growing number of their providers getting waivered for medication-assisted treatment (MAT), particularly family nurse practitioners, and our goal is making sure providers feel supported while caring for this population in the primary care setting."

Doug Michael, AVP, Community Health and Grants, gave an update on the Rural Communities Opioid Response Program (RCORP) grant. It's a one-million-dollar grant that supports community-based efforts towards establishing or enhancing opioid/substance use prevention, treatment, and recovery services in rural communities served by Northern Light Sebasticook Valley Hospital. Doug explained that there is a consortium of community partners, including local law enforcement agencies and local schools that are already working together. Doug also explained that Northern Light Health is collaborating with Somerset Public Health and Maine General, who also have grant funding. "The three projects are talking so we can identify our strengths and make sure we're not duplicating our efforts," Doug said.

 Mike Murnick, MD senior physician executive, Northern Light Blue Hill Hospital reported that in conjunction with Healthy Acadia and the Downeast Recovery Network, they are finishing a grant proposal on a Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS) program in partnership with Northern Light Eastern Maine Medical Center. The project will support NAS impacted babies for the first three years of life. They also recently held a trauma-informed care training provided by Primary Care Development Corporation (PCDC) in New York. "We now own that training video and will be using it for other future trainings," explained Dr. Murnik. 
Lastly, Melissa Skahan, vice president of Mission Integration for Northern Light Mercy Hospital, explained that Mercy was very busy with ED rapid access and partnering patients with recovery coaches.  Mercy is working on funding to start an intake bridging program with the jail to support individual release into community treatment. McAuley Residence in Portland continues to succeed in supporting moms and children. In Bangor, McAuley residence has successfully opened during COVID. "It's been amazing to watch families stabilize even during COVID," says Melissa. Mercy's MOM's program providing deliveries for OUD impacted mothers will start soon. Skahan also informed Mr. Smith that McAuley Residence would be operating a third location on State Street in Portland. "That's exciting news about a third  potential residence," remarked Smith. He was very appreciative of the inventory list of efforts that Northern Light Health provided.

Mr. Smith also updated the Northern Light Health Opioid Resources Committee about efforts underway at the state level, including the OPTIONS (Overdose Prevention Through Intensive Outreach, Naloxone and Safety) initiative, a significant resource for prevention/treatment/ recovery. There will be a program coordinator in each county and funding for those positions for the next two years. "For every fatality, there are dozens of people saved. The OPTIONS program reaches out to those people who survived an overdose to offer them more robust harm reduction services or get them into treatment,” explained Smith.

As the meeting concluded, Smith thanked the committee for inviting him to attend and requested an opportunity to meet up again in six months to update the progress underway to curb Maine's opioid epidemic.