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New program aims to bring down number of prescribed opioids in Arkansas

UAMS is looking to bring the number of prescribed opioids down with a new educational service for healthcare providers.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) – UAMS is looking to bring the number of prescribed opioids down with a new educational service for healthcare providers.

Arkansas has the second highest opioid prescribing rate in the nation with 114.6 prescriptions per 100 people.

"What we're doing is not working and patients are suffering,” Johnathan Goree with UAMS said.

But a new program called Arkansas Improving Multidisciplinary Pain Care Treatment (AR-IMPACT) aims to bring the prescribing rate down.

Governor Asa Hutchinson, state drug director Kirk Lane and others helped announce the program Monday. It is a free online weekly consultation service for Arkansas health care providers.

“We’re hoping to really start a conversation about how to improve pain treatment in the state of Arkansas,” Goree said.

Goree said the free program will educate healthcare providers on how to better manage patients with chronic pain.

"We're going to teach physicians about how to have difficult conversations with their patients about addiction,” he said. "It will allow us to decrease their risk of unfortunate side effects of opioids."

Goree said continuing education for healthcare providers is important because often times prescribers are misinformed.

"We've been told by different studies and different drug companies that opioids aren't harmful and we now know that they are,” he said.

AR-IMPACT coordinator Corey Hayes said recent health studies have shown opioids are not helping chronic pain patients that much.

He said this program will instead give healthcare providers alternative treatments.

"We have different folks who can help primary care physicians and prescribers with treating of chronic pain patients,” Hayes said.

AR-IMPACT is a live streaming online video conferencing service staffed by a multidisciplinary team from UAMS, including a pain physician and psychologist.

Funding for the program’s first year is provided by $104,125 from Arkansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield and $49,000 from the office of the state drug director.