Health Center News

The New York Times Looks at Treating Opioid Addiction and Pain in West Virginia


Medical pillsWe have been writing about opioid addiction, an alarming trend that is gaining wide attention by the media, policymakers and lawmakers. And with good reason: every day in the U.S. over 40 people die from overdosing on prescription painkillers, and many more are becoming addicted, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).  Community Health Centers are among the organizations at “ground zero” for treating opioid abuse and addiction. We recently wrote about Petaluma Health Center in California, which received a $325,000 federal grant that will go toward to boosting staff at their substance abuse treatment center.

Health centers are using a variety of approaches to address pain and opioid addiction that we’re learning about. Today we read about Community Care of West Virginia, which has launched an approach that directly treats the chronic pain for which opioid pain killers are often prescribed. The health center hired an anesthesiologist to treat chronic pain, a move that caught the attention of New York Times reporter Abby Goodnough, in a feature article.

“I’m part F.B.I. investigator, part C.I.A. interrogator, part drill sergeant, part cheerleader,” Dr. Denzil Hawkinberry told the Times in a feature article.   Dr. Hawkinberry also has had personal experience with addiction as a former opioid addict.   The article describes how the health center’s  primary care doctors and nurse practitioners can now better focus on patients with other health problems, while Denzil Hawkinberry to make the hard decisions about who needs pain killers, using his own experiences as a “cautionary tale.”