Opioid prescriptions finally start to head in the other direction

Maybe all of the commotion about the epidemic of heroin and painkiller abuse is finally starting to reverse the terrible trend. Following years of unchecked growth in the U.S., the number of prescriptions for opioids finally started to trend downward last year, the New York Times reports, citing multiple data sources. The number of such pills dispensed legally to the public has trended steadily upward over the past 20 years, since the blockbuster drug OxyContin hit the market in 1996. Things had grown so out of hand at one point that in 2012 docs were dispensing enough opioids for every American adult to have his or own bottle, with more than 14,000 individuals dying from such drugs in the most recent year data is available. IMS Health, for one, estimates a 12 percent decline in prescriptions across the country since that 2012 peak. Expert Bruce Psaty, M.D., a researcher with the University of Washington in Seattle, thinks we’ve turned a corner. “The culture is changing,” he tells the Times. “We are on the downside of a curve with opioid prescribing now.”

Memphis hospital chief goes from ‘bad cop’ to softy

When James Downing, M.D., first started off as CEO of St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital, in Memphis, years ago, he didn’t realize that one of his biggest obstacles to success had been following him around his whole life. “The first challenge was me,” he says, according to the Memphis Daily News. Downing comes from a scientific background and liked to function as the hardened, methodical guy who asks all of the tough questions. “I was the bad cop. I was the analytical, aggressive scientist that took no prisoners. I wanted hard, rigorous thinking.” But he quickly realized that functioning as a CEO necessitated a much softer touch. It’s also pushed Downing into being more of a visionary, and he’s done so by making a strategic planning elemental to his hospital’s culture, along with surrounding himself with staff “that’s not afraid to speak up and disagree with me,” according to the News.

Therapy becoming a hobby of the rich?

There is a critical need in our health care system for more behavioral health-type services. And yet, some of those highly trained, highly needed professionals might be wasting their time servicing wealthy folk who just like to talk about their problems aloud, according to KQED News in Northern California. A Stanford professor of psychiatry tells the news that this trend goes back decades, to when WWII veterans came back with mental-health issues, and the VA partnered with medical schools to train experts in the area. That coincided with “soaring American affluence” and a corresponding uptick in self-exploration. All that has resulted in many psychologists entering the cash-only game and servicing those who can pay much higher sums out of pocket, while also having easier to manage problems than the truly mentally ill. The Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act, and the ACA, have spurred some progress, but professor Keith Humphreys believes this cash market is here to stay. “A minute I spend training that person is a minute of my life wasted,” he tells the news site. “That very well-trained person should be taking care of very, very troubled people. When they don’t, everyone who needs that care loses out.”

Anticipating a possible surge in health care service needs in C-Town

A surge of visitors is expected in Cleveland come July for the Republican National Convention, and with it, possibly a surge in protests and injuries. All that has some worried about the impact on the health care system in C-Town, MedPage Today reports. Thankfully, a group of volunteers who help EMS teams called the “Rust Belt Medics” is at the ready for when things get hectic outside Quicken Loans Arena. The volunteer medics — some who come from a health care background — are trained for possible situations that can arise in scenarios like this, whether a chemical weapon, tear gas, or an asthma attack. They serve on the very front lines of such crowded situations and respond immediately, with EMS often in the distance behind police lines, Rust Belt Medic, farmer and former EMS worker Charles Schiavone tells the site. “A lot of times, people who are injured in a protest don’t want to leave — they need a person who can be with them, who can help them restore their own authority so they can continue to do what they came there to do. So that’s our role.”