Inside CHIME: CHIME Opioid Task Force Gets Under Way and Welcomes Member Participation

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Ed Kopetsky, LCHIME, FCHIME, CIO, Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital  



Jim Turnbull, LCHIME, FCHIME, CIO, University of Utah Health

Last week, CHIME convened the first meeting of the CHIME Opioid Task Force. Those of you who attended the CHIME Fall CIO Forum in San Antonio may recall that one of us – Jim Turnbull – announced from the stage that CHIME planned to launch a task force to address the opioid crisis in the United States. The impetus for this decision came from a tragedy experienced by another one of us – Ed Kopetsky.

That tragedy was the recent loss of a son to opioids. Tim Kopetsky died from an overdose at the young age of 31.

This is a tragedy that touches many lives. Opioid addiction is often called an invisible disease. It strikes families from all demographics and age groups, sadly even newborns whose first experience out of the womb is feeling the pangs of withdrawal. It entraps youths prescribed powerful pain killers after an injury and adults under treatment (or overtreatment) for chronic pain.

As co-chairs of the CHIME Opioid Task Force, we invite CHIME and CHIME Foundation members to join us in a fight against opioid addiction. We believe CHIME is well positioned to help bend the curve of this exploding epidemic. Why? Because CHIME members have the data, the knowledge and the commitment as healthcare IT leaders to find and share solutions to this problem. In addition, CHIME has strong relationships with many organizations and institutions that can help us raise awareness and meet our goal. 

During the first day of our meeting in Washington, task force members heard presentations from two experts in the field of addiction: Kana Enomoto, senior adviser to the U.S. Surgeon General and former acting administrator at the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, or SAMHSA; and Chris Wilkins, founder and president emeritus of Loyola Recovery Foundation. It became clear that the challenge is critical and immense. Immense but not immutable.

“Faith is taking the first step even when you can’t see the whole staircase.” Enomoto shared that quotation from Martin Luther King Jr. during her talk, and it is a sentiment we embraced as we broke into work groups to begin defining our scope and purpose.

The next day, a panel of Congressional staffers and legislative aides updated us on key bills and issues. We had some lively discussions about Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs, which vary across states. (You likely will hear more on this subject from the task force in the future.) For the present, we are developing an action plan, based on the insights and recommendations of our work groups.

One thing is clear about the opioid epidemic: It affects all of us. Many of us have personal stories involving family members, friends and acquaintances who struggle with addiction. 

Tim died after fighting addiction to opioids for 10 years, and he was in successful recovery for the last five years. The devil is never far away, though. In helping a friend who relapsed and survived an overdose, Tim came into contact with heroin and lost control. He died that evening. His friend returned from the hospital and died of a second overdose the next day.

We believe something good can come from this tragedy. It is our turn as CIOs and healthcare IT executives to step up, to lead and to show others the way forward. The staircase may be long. It may be steep. But we have faith and we have taken the first step.

Please join us in this journey. You can learn more about the task force here. To get involved, please go here.   


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