New Hampshire hospitals take aim at the opioid epidemic, invest $50M in state initiatives

Hydrocodone opioid pills
Hospitals in New Hampshire have joined the providers taking steps to combat the opioid epidemic. (Getty/smartstock)

Hospitals in New Hampshire have agreed to kick in $50 million toward the state's opioid epidemic efforts, just the latest example of hospitals taking significant steps toward addressing the crisis. 

The funding will be invested over the next five years into a number of the state's opioid programs, Gov. Chris Sununu announced Friday. 

"It is the single largest secured financial investment the state has ever seen in funding substance abuse disorder programs," Sununu said. 

RELATED: The other opioid crisis—Hospital shortages lead to patient pain, medical errors 

Sununu told the Associated Press that the alliance is a "great example of planning in the long-term" and "simply not accepting the way we used to do it." 

It makes sense for hospitals and other providers to take the lead on combatting the opioid crisis since they're on the front lines of patient care, Joseph Pepe, CEO of Catholic Medical Center in Manchester, told the outlet.

"We understand how essential it is to invest in programs to address substance abuse disorder," Pepe said. "By working together, like we are today, we can make a life-saving difference." 

RELATED: Opioid addiction treatment costs employers $2.6B a year, study finds 

Despite a focus on the crisis, the opioid epidemic shows no signs of slowing down. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that more than 42,000 people died of an opioid overdose in 2016, a 27.5% increase from 2015. 

New Hampshire's hospitals aren't the only ones stepping up to take on the epidemic. Geisinger Health System in Pennsylvania, another state hit hard by the addiction crisis, has slashed its opioid prescription rates by 50% by emphasizing alternative and educating physicians on their prescribing habits, reported WHYY, a public radio station based in Philadelphia. 

Geisinger's chief pharmacy officer Michael Evans told WHYY that most doctors were surprised to find they may be prescribing more than patients' needed. "Most of the time, the reaction from prescribers is, 'Wow, I had no idea I was prescribing like that,'" Evans said. 

Colorado hospitals saw success in a similar approach, focusing on interventions in the emergency department to reduce opioid prescriptions. The Colorado Hospital Association launched a pilot in June 2017 and reduced prescriptions by 36% in six months—far surpassing an initial 15% reduction goal. 

Nashville hospitals are warning patients to expect some pain post-surgery as part of its efforts to cut down on prescriptions. Surgeons are now required to talk with patients about addiction risks.