Pubdate: Fri, 04 Aug 2017
Source: Calgary Sun, The (CN AB)
Copyright: 2017 The Calgary Sun
Author: Alanna Smith
Page: 7


Alberta health professionals are launching a new phone service in an
effort to save lives and curb a growing opioid crisis.

The opioid dependency advice line, which launches Aug. 8, offers
expert consultation for primary care physicians and nurse
practitioners caring for patients with opioid dependence.

"In the province not all family physicians are going to be comfortable
or have experience in treating opioid dependence, particularly in
using the medications," said Doctor Nick Mitchell, Alberta Health
Services' provincial medical director with addictions and mental health.

The advice line, a pilot project running through February, is meant to
reduce barriers to treatment. It is equipped with four specialists
working in Edmonton and Calgary Opioid Dependency Program clinics and
operated by Alberta Health Services' Referral, Access, Advice,
Placement, Information and Destination team.

The service connects individuals with specialists who can give advice
manage patients who are misusing opioids and prescribing drugs that
help with addiction.

Mitchell said the callline is particularly helpful in offering
time-conscious help.

"Any time there's a gap in treatment there's a potential to lose
patients," said Mitchell.

"If we have an individual seeing their family physician and they're
talking about opioid dependence and we have an opportunity to
intervene at that point, then we're more likely to get that individual
engaged in treatment than if we have to wait for them to be referred
on to a specialist."

Additionally, not everyone in the province lives close to a

He hopes patients who get help from the call line might also engage
with other addiction services, like counselling.

"With the right preparation and supports, opioid use disorder can be
as straightforward to treat as other chronic diseases, such as
diabetes or hypertension," said Bonnie Larson, a family physician at
the Calgary Urban Projects Society.

"The outcomes can be dramatic, with individuals moving from chaos to
stability, illness to health, quite quickly," said Larson.

In the first three months of 2017, 113 people in the province died
from an apparent drug overdose related to fentanyl.
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