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CT Treatment Pilot Trains Providers on Addiction Stigma, Pain Management

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Friday, November 19, 2021   

HARTFORD, Conn. -- Drug overdose deaths across the country are on the rise, and a new pilot program kicks off this month in Connecticut to help clinicians better treat injured workers and opioid addiction.

A collaboration between the Yale Program in Addiction Medicine and insurance company The Hartford includes training for health-care providers to help them both identify and treat acute and chronic pain, and opioid use disorder. It also focuses on preventing stigma among medical professionals.

David Fiellin, director of the program in addiction medicine at the Yale School of Medicine, said because chronic pain and addiction are both highly stigmatized, they can result in people not seeking treatment.

"For instance, medications for opioid use disorder are highly stigmatized," Fiellin observed. "However, they also decrease death rates by 50%. And so, we want to make sure that people understand these medical conditions, the role of these medications, how effective they are."

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data reveal the number of overdose deaths during a 12-month period ending this past April topped more than 100,000 for the first time.

The Hartford is seeing a rise in the prevalence of opioid use disorder among injured workers. Opioid prescriptions can start with a chronic pain diagnosis.

Adam Seidner, chief medical officer at The Hartford, said treating chronic pain takes a multidisciplinary approach, including behavioral and medication-based treatment.

"When it's properly managed, many people can resume their lives," Seidner pointed out. "And it really is going to depend on finding good and appropriate pain care, because you can prevent chronic pain."

Seidner added it is important for medical professionals to understand why people misuse substances like opioids. He noted there is a misconception people do it just to get high.

"They're not looking to get altered mental status from all of this," Seidner asserted. "They're just trying to be and feel normal, so they can function. And I think that's probably the biggest thing, is to understand the emotions, the impact of pain, and really then having all the tools available to manage them."


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