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DIGGING DEEPER: Blessing turns to integrative therapies to help curb opioid crisis

QUINCY (WGEM) — As the opioid crisis grips the Tri-States, doctors who prescribe the highly-addictive drugs are looking for alternatives to treat pain.

At Blessing Hospital, officials say there is 65 percent less intravenous opioid use because doctors aren’t prescribing the drug as much due to the epidemic and a nationwide shortage of intravenous opioids.

So what are they doing to manage patients’ pain?

A motorcycle crash last year changed Todd Schroeder’s life. A spinal cord injury left him without the use of his arms or legs.

“He [my friend] told me I started going sideways and the next thing I knew I was flying through the air,” said Schroeder, recalling the day.

Schroeder needed surgery and was in Blessing Hospital for 108 days. He was prescribed opioids to treat the pain.

“I’ve never been anybody to take a lot of drugs, so that was kind of important to me to take the least amount I could take,” he said.

During Shroeder’s stay, Blessing staff offered him massage therapy, part of a new integrative therapies plan aimed at reducing the amount of opioids used for pain treatment.

“There are techniques to reduce the amount of medication needed,” said Dr. Irving Schwartz with Blessing Physician Services.

Blessing officials say the integrative therapies don’t necessarily replace the need for opioid painkillers, but they do help patients be able to use less.

“We know there’s an opioid crisis across the United States. Quincy is no different,” said Dr. Mary Frances Barthel, Chief Quality/Safety Officer with Blessing Health System.

Which is why Blessing started to adapt integrative therapies, including massage, coloring books, guided imagery, music and games.

“Anything you can provide a patient to take their mind off of pain is going to have a positive impact on their overall experience in pain control,” said Laura Leapley, Director of Medical Surgical Services and Specialty Care.

Schroeder says the integrative therapies made a clear difference for him.

“It helped with the stress. And, for me, I did take less painkillers,” he said.

Like Shroeder, Cathy Shortridge and Michelle Scott, both admitted to Blessing this month, are getting massages as part of integrative therapy to help with their pain.

“They come around every day and ask if you want one,” said Shortridge. “I always say because they make me feel better.”

“It is a great way to calm you down after a day of physical therapies. It helps relax,” said Scott.

A new strategy for pain management, as an opioid crisis grips the nation.

“We used to run for the morphine. Just give morphine to everybody. And we don’t do that anymore,” said Blessing Hospital ICU Nurse Manager Laura Weigand.

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Alexandra Carter

WGEM News Anchor

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