WIHI: The Opioid Crisis: How Health Care and the Community Can Act

Date: April 21, 2016


  • Joseph Foster, JD, New Hampshire Attorney General, New Hampshire Department of Justice
  • Joel Hyatt, MD, FAAFP, Emeritus Assistant Regional Medical Director, Kaiser Permanente, Southern California
  • Lindsay Martin, MSPH, Executive Director and Improvement Advisor, Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI)
  • Mara Laderman, MSPH, Senior Research Associate, IHI
The US is in the midst of a serious opioid addiction epidemic. Driven largely by an explosion of prescribed pain medications, the dramatic rise in addiction and deaths from overdoses (quadruple what they were in 1999, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) now has the attention of just about every sector of society that can play a role in addressing the problem. This includes innovative approaches coming from law enforcement, local, state, and federal health departments, drug treatment programs, community groups, and health care delivery.
While providers who write prescriptions for painkillers such as OxyContin are under particular pressure to do a much better job assessing a patient’s need for pain medication and risk of becoming addicted, it’s clear there’s no single or simple solution to the current crisis. That’s why IHI’s Innovation team has been scanning for the best practices that comprise a community-driven, integrated, and multi-sector approach. We discussed these elements and the response to the opioid epidemic on this WIHI.
Our guides included Lindsay Martin and Mara Laderman, two members of IHI’s Innovation team, and two people that IHI has learned a lot from; New Hampshire Attorney General Joseph Foster and Kaiser Permanente’s Joel Hyatt. Kaiser Permanente has been working hard to curb opioid prescribing in its system for several years, leveraging every means possible. The work is paying off in dramatic decreases in written prescriptions. In New Hampshire, hit hard by both a heroin epidemic and the opioid prescription crisis, Joseph Foster’s outlook reflects that of many in his government position. He’s attempting to engage the most effective and innovative strategies to impact public health and public safety.

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