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Opiod epidemic and treatment methods are focus of gathering

By Staff | Mar 10, 2017

Chronicle photo by Adam Oester Dr. Ryan Wakim presented slides outlining statistics relating to opiod use and a connection to prescription drugs.

A luncheon was held at the Clarion Inn in Harpers Ferry last week focusing on the rising opioid epidemic in the area. Discussions were aimed at solutions to treating those who are dependent on drugs after their incarceration. Hosted by the Jefferson Day Report Center and Jefferson County Criminal Justice Board, the featured presenter was Dr. Ryan Wakim.

Wakim spoke on a new, once-a-month detox method known as Vivitrol. This once-a-month shot is non-addictive, non-narcotic and is administered by a healthcare professional. Since the shot is administered this way, the professional knows that their patient is receiving the medication in the proper amount of time and with the correct dosage.

Wakim presented medical facts throughout his speech, one of which focused on number of people who have a substance abuse problem related to prescription pain relievers. Out of 21.5 million Americans, 1.9 million of those addicted to a substance originally had pain relievers prescribed to them by a heath care professional by the end of 2014.

Wakim said, “A lot of these people with this illness weren’t just looking for a high, a lot of these people were in pain and were just taking medication prescribed to them.”

In wrapping up his presentation Wakim said, “The next solution to this problem is a combination of everything, these people are sick with a mental illness, so they need medical assisted treatment, they need therapy and they need to be in a program. Our job, the healthcare providers and the criminal justice system, is to bridge the gap between each other. We need to find these people pre-release and begin treatment instead of just waiting for them to be on the street again.”

The JDRC are tasked with giving treatment to offenders with drug charges. Wakim already has an existing relationship with the JDRC because he serves as Medical Director for them. He provides mental health assessments and addiction services through telehealth. This concept allows a healthcare professional to assess a patient regardless of one another’s location. Wakim meets with his patients either via a phone call or a one-on-one secure video to ensure that they receive care.

Telehealth is not only an advancement in technology for the medical field; it is one of the main reasons that the JDRC can provide this extensive care to their patients.

Director of the JDRC, Ronda Eddy said, “This technology is allowing our clients to get the best possible treatment by a physician that is specialized in addiction. Without telehealth it just wouldn’t be possible, it wouldn’t be affordable. We can actually take our client and put them directly with our specialist for a one-on-one, they’re essentially in the same room.”