Honest Conversations: Supporting Clinicians in Linking Patients to Harm Reduction Services
By Anna Morgan-Barsamian, MPH, RN, PMP, Senior Manager, Training & Education, NaRCAD
Tags: Primary Care, Opioid Safety, Evidence Based Medicine, Harm Reduction
Our team at NaRCAD has been working on an exciting new project developing harm reduction key messages for primary care clinicians in collaboration with the National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and consultants from Boston Medical Center.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) defines harm reduction as an approach that aims to prevent overdose and infectious disease transmission, improve physical and mental health, and offer options for accessing treatment and other health care services for people who use drugs. Various harm reduction approaches have been proven to prevent overdose and death, injury, infectious disease transmission, and substance misuse. For instance, there is nearly 30 years of research that has shown that syringe services programs decrease transmission of viral hepatitis, HIV, and other infections.
There are several other harm reduction approaches beyond syringe service programs, including:
It’s critical that academic detailers continue to encourage primary care clinicians to discuss harm reduction with their patients and link them to services within their community. Academic detailers have the ability to empower clinicians to have difficult conversations with patients to reduce infections, overdose, and death. Our team developed the following key messages to support primary care clinicians in caring for patients who would benefit from harm reduction. These key messages are currently being piloted across the United States in a project funded by NACCHO.
Harm Reduction: Key Messages to Improve Outcomes for People Who Use Drugs
1. Assess factors that may contribute to risk of Opioid Use Disorder (OUD) for patients who use opioids.
2. Identify opportunities to reduce risk of harm using a patient-centered approach.
3. Offer Medications for Opioid Use Disorder (MOUD) to patients identified as having OUD.
4. Connect patients with community harm reduction services and other services that meet identified needs.
These evidence-based key messages can help clinicians provide support to their patients and build strong and trusting relationships with those who need it most. Building trust between clinicians and patients allows patients to feel heard and be open to seeking additional treatment, ultimately leading to improved health outcomes.
Our team is looking forward to continuing to explore harm reduction and updating our key messages based on the results of the pilot through NACCHO.
If your program is interested in collaborating with our team on future harm reduction work, or any other clinical topic, please reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Want to learn more?
Stay tuned to learn about the results of the pilot and how clinicians responded to these key messages in the field. You can also join our discussion forum to interact with peers who are working on harm reduction!
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