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Addiction in Franklin County

60 Franklin County doctors sign on to prescriber pledge to date

GREENFIELD — Sixty Franklin County doctors, surgeons, dentists, psychiatrists and other health care providers have signed on to the Safe Prescriber Pledge to adopt practices that ensure safe prescribing practices for potentially addictive medications as the region battles opioid abuse.

Another 19 physicians in the Ware region also signed onto the pledge since its implementation in May.

The pledge is an effort led by the regional Opioid Education and Awareness Task Force to hold physicians accountable for medications they prescribe and for making sure patients use the medications properly.

The pledge includes a list of several steps aimed at identifying drug-seekers and monitoring patients for any sign of a developing addiction problem.

It is just one of many approaches taken to help curb the recent surge in heroin addiction and overdoses that has plagued Franklin County and much of the Northeast. Abuse of prescription opioids, and even use as prescribed, can lead to addiction and use of heroin, a chemically related illicit drug.

“The pledge is a way to make physicians aware of what our responsibilities are by making sure we’re doing the right thing for patients,” said Dr. Larry Klein, a doctor with Connecticut River Internists in Turners Falls.

Connecticut River Internists, a primary care group since 1988, implemented many of the pledge’s requirements two years ago. The group officially signed onto the pledge in April.

“It was a reminder to us that these are things we need to remember when we’re writing prescriptions,” Klein said.

As part of the pledge, doctors at Connecticut River Internists work with patients who are prescribed opioids and have them sign a patient-provider agreement, where patients promise to use medications responsibly. Patients are also required to be seen by a doctor on a regular basis and are subject to urine testing to make sure the medications are used properly.

By signing the Safe Prescriber Pledge, medical care providers also agree to take several steps in their practice, including applying risk stratification to improve care of the patient and reduce risk of harm, recognize that not all pain requires opioid medicine and regularly assessing patients with opioid prescriptions for well-being and improvement in function.

Doctors also pledge to learn to recognize symptoms of addiction and substance abuse in patients and direct them to appropriate treatment for their addiction, which is seen as a disease.

Doctors also promise to make proactive use of the Massachusetts Prescription Monitoring Program, which helps prescribers notice doctor-shoppers and drug-seekers and to help law enforcement and medical agencies prosecute problem prescribers.

The pledge was created by Dr. Ruth Potee, a Valley Medical Group general practitioner and anti-addiction advocate who co-chairs the health care subcommittee of the Opioid Education and Awareness Task Force with outgoing Baystate Franklin Medical Center President Chuck Gijanto. The program was made possible with a grant from Baystate Franklin Medical Center’s parent Baystate Health.

You can reach Kathleen McKiernan at: kmckiernan@recorder.com or 413-772-0261 ext. 268 on Twitter, follow @RecorderKatMcK

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