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UB and county combat opiate epidemic by educating doctors, patients

As fatal opioid overdoses skyrocket here and across the nation, the University at Buffalo and Erie County announced they will collaborate on an educational program for doctors and patients to promote safer ways to manage pain.

Although data are incomplete, the number of overdose deaths from opioids may more than double in the county, from 128 deaths in 2014 to nearly 280 in lsat year, officials said.

“The spike in overdose deaths this year points to the need for major institutions in the community to come together to address the problem,” Dr. Gale Burstein, Erie County health commissioner, said in a statement.

In October, the Tower Foundation awarded a $64,500 grant to the county to develop guidelines for health care providers on safe prescribing practices and training for safe pain management, as well as how to screen and manage opioid addicts. The UB-Erie County partnership will add to these efforts with a project focused on training current and future health care providers in safe acute-pain management.

The idea is to educate physicians and other health care providers, patients and the community about the risks of opioid pain medications and how quickly addiction and overdoses can occur.

“UB is in a unique position to affect positive change in terms of safe prescribing practices since we train so many of the region’s health care providers, graduating more than 600 new health care professionals every year,” Dr. Michael Cain, vice president for health sciences and dean of the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at UB, said in a statement.

In addition to the UB medical school, the effort will involve UB’s schools of Dental Medicine, Nursing, Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, Public Health and Health Professions, Social Work. The UB Law School and School of Management will also participate, as will UB’s Research Institute on Addictions.

The institute will help UB develop a framework for education in addiction, based on current course offerings, as well as new ones under development, at the undergraduate and graduate levels, in addition to supporting graduate degrees, concentrations and certificate programs in disciplines that commonly address addiction-related issues, according to Ken Leonard, director.

The UB medical school plans to build on its existing practice of training residents to screen for and manage patients with substance abuse. In addition, the school is recruiting residents into fellowships that focus on pain and addiction, with the goal of turning out more teaching physicians with the expertise to educate and provide safer pain management care.