COLUMBUS — On average, approximately eight people die each day in Ohio due to unintentional drug overdose.
To combat this continuing issue, a handful of Ohio organizations have come together to fight the opioid epidemic in the state.
Take Charge Ohio is the product of a collaboration of the Ohio Department of Health and the Ohio Mental Health and Addition Services, Ohio Department of Medicaid, Ohio Board of Nursing, Ohio State Dental Board, Ohio Bureau of Worker’ Compensation and Ohio Injury Prevention Partnership’s Prescription Drug Abuse Action Group.
According to Ohio Department of Health Public Information Office Megan Smith, the initiative’s mission is to empower safe pain management and medication use by educating patients and providing resources for health care providers.
“Together, we can manage pain safely and prevent pain medication abuse,” Smith said.
Smith said the campaign’s goals are to engage and educate prescribers on appropriate prescribing practices and support positive prescriber interactions with patients by raising awareness of appropriate prescribing practices among the general public.
Prevalance and trends in unintentional drug overdose
According to statistics from the Ohio Department of Health, in 2007, unintentional drug poisoning became the leading cause of injury death in Ohio, surpassing motor vehicle crashes for the first time on record. This trend has continued through 2015.
From 2000-2015, Ohio’s death rate due to unintentional drug poisonings increased 642 percent, and the increase in deaths has been driven largely by opioid-related overdoses.
In Ohio, there were 411 fatal unintentional drug overdoses in the year 2000 growing to 3,050 deaths in 2015.
The high cost of overdoses
Drug overdoses are associated with high direct and indirect costs, according to an Ohio Department of Health report. Unintentional fatal drug overdoses cost Ohioans $2 billion in 2012 in medical and work loss costs; while non-fatal, hospital-admitted drug poisonings cost an additional $39.1 million. The total cost equaled an average of $5.4 million each day in medical and work loss costs in Ohio.
Campaign is developed
According to Smith, the idea for the Take Charge Ohio campaign was first developed by the Governor’s Cabinet Opiate Action Team (GCOAT) Prescriber Education Workgroup (PEW) in 2015 while developing a plan to engage prescribers after releasing the third set of prescribing guidelines — for acute pain the primary care setting. She said the prescribing community expressed a need for support and understanding on the part of the patient and general public about opioids.
“The goal was to create a culture where patients no longer expected an opioid,” Smith said.
A project advisory committee was formed — including key stakeholders and partners from the various partners — to guide the campaign’s research and development. Research was conducted with prescribers, creative concepts were tested in focus groups, and a dissemination plan was developed, Smith said.
The advisory committee expressed interest in promoting a single point of contact to reach interested stakeholders. A website — takechargeohio.org — was then developed as a resource hub for health care providers, patients, and the general public. Take Charge Ohio social media accounts (Twitter and Facebook) were also launched to share resources and raise awareness of the campaign.
The Take Charge Ohio campaign was officially launched in October 2017, Smith said.
Take Charge Ohio is a web-based program with tools and resources for everyone from doctors to patients to the general public, Smith said.
The Take Charge Ohio website houses resources supporting safe pain management and pain medication safety. There are toolkits for health care providers, patients, the general public, and those wishing to raise public awareness. These toolkits include useful resources that can be implemented in these different settings. There is an interactive quiz to determine your level of risk. Treatment resources are available along with a link to search local treatment providers.
Take Charge Ohio has Facebook and Twitter accounts with helpful tips, resources and recent news articles. Monthly email blasts are sent to Ohio health care providers. Topics include prescribing resources, options for safe pain management and tools and resources to use with patients.
“Since the launch of the campaign in October 2017, there have been more than 50,000 unique page views of the Take Charge Ohio website, according to Smith. More than 80,000 providers in the state of Ohio have received campaign emails,” she said.
State partners utilize the Take Charge Ohio web badge to show their partnership and direct users to the campaign website. Local health departments utilize the Take Charge Ohio public awareness materials for local campaigns. Health care providers and treatment centers have contacted the campaign for patient education materials.
Other than through partnerships with stakeholders throughout the state, awareness of the campaign is raised through TV and Radio PSAs, billboards, YouTube, digital ads and print ads.
Start Talking for children
Another program, Start Talking, is geared toward children to prevent drug abuse, Smith said. Start Talking was launched to give parents, guardians, educators and community leaders the tools to start the conversation with Ohio’s youth about the importance of living healthy, drug-free lives. To learn more about the campaign, visit http://starttalking.ohio.gov/.