Community health workers trained to support patient outcomes in underserved and vulnerable communities

New York’s Northwell Health is training a fleet of 30 new community health workers to bridge the gap between underserved and diverse local populations – many who rely on Medicaid and suffer from chronic diseases – and the health care system, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Donna Stovall, a current student in the training program, told the publication that such outreach efforts are necessary for the swaths of people that “don’t trust the system” and, therefore, don’t get regular, necessary care. Community health workers are “people they can identify with,” and can change perceptions of the health care system, Stovall said.

These workers’ efforts can support earlier intervention and prevent avoidable emergency department visits by helping schedule patients’ transportation, ensuring patients take medication, signing them up for public benefits and working one-on-one with them to help them manage chronic conditions or recover from illnesses.

The widespread demand for community health workers is growing as a result of the field’s shift to value-based payment, as well as an increased focus on the social determinants of health, the Journal said.

Ohio county a model for reversing opioid epidemic 

Overdose deaths in Montgomery County, Ohio, have dropped by 54 percent in the last year, after sustaining one of the highest rates in the nation, the New York Times reports. Now, the region is undergoing a dramatic turnaround as the area’s 700,000 low-income adults benefit from access to free addiction and behavioral health treatment, including residential programs and outpatient clinics that dispense methadone, buprenorphine and naltrexone, the three medications approved by the Food and Drug Administration to treat opioid addiction.

More than a dozen new treatment providers have cropped up in the area within the last year alone, which Dayton, Ohio, Mayor Nan Whaley says is a direct result of Gov. John Kasich’s decision to expand Medicaid in 2015. With Medicaid now covering addiction treatment for nearly all low-income residents in need, Ohio has been able to funnel its federal opioid grant dollars toward funding other crucial programs, such as paying for incarcerated people who lose their Medicaid coverage to stay in treatment with their regular providers while they’re behind bars.

The publication also cites other factors that contribute to the plunge in overdose deaths: less carfentanil on the street (a cousin to the highly toxic opioid fentanyl); the prevalence of naloxone, the drug that can reverse an overdose; and collaboration between police and public health workers.

In the shadow of the opioid epidemic, deaths from meth skyrocket

Amphetamine-related hospitalizations have soared in recent years, and overdoses from the drug accounted for an estimated 10,000 deaths last year, the federal government reports. 

There aren’t enough resources devoted to combatting amphetamine substance use disorder, Kaiser Health News reports, citing the decline of residential treatment facilities.

Yet, the stimulant’s resurgence has not received much media attention or legislative focus and is “overshadowed” by the national spotlight on the opioid epidemic, Kaiser Health News reports.