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PORTAGE — Wisconsin is at the forefront of the nation’s opioid epidemic with the highest increase in emergency room visits for opioid overdose in the U.S. — a 107 percent increase in 2017.

Wisconsin’s hospitals, particularly the emergency departments, are in a strong position to integrate new and more effective pain management treatments that are tailored to each patient’s unique pain experience.

As such, Divine Savior Healthcare is following principles put forward by the Midwest ALTO Project (alternatives to opioids) to reduce the administration of opioids in hospital emergency rooms. Divine Savior’s goal is to improve pain management for its patients and return them to a maximum quality of life, while also recognizing and controlling the inherent risks of prescribing highly addictive medications like opioids.

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Vice President of Physician Services Dr. Michael Walters said, “Divine Savior’s emergency clinicians are dedicated to understanding and responding appropriately to their patients’ physical and emotional symptoms of pain, while also taking steps to help the community combat the ongoing opioid epidemic.”

This project implements components from the Wisconsin ACEP 2018 Opioid Prescribing & Treatment Guidelines developed by the Wisconsin chapter of the American College of Emergency Physicians in Divine Savior’s ED. These guidelines include using alternatives to opioids as a first line of defense in treating patients with painful conditions before resorting to opioids.

In January 2018, the Colorado Hospital Association announced the results of a similar program that was implemented in 10 emergency departments across the state in 2017. During the six-month pilot, the participating facilities reduced the administration of opioids by an average of 36 percent and increased the usage of ALTOs by 31 percent.

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