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IMS Close-Ups: Multi-Faceted Approaches Against the Opioid Epidemic

Friday, October 29, 2021 7:30 AM | Sydney Maras (Administrator)

Combatting the growing opioid epidemic has long been a priority of the Iowa Medical Society (IMS). From working to pass the legislation that improved access to naloxone in 2015, the enactment of the Good Samaritan Law protections in overdose situations in 2017, expediting Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP) dispensed medication reporting and enhancing usability of the PDMP, championing the removal of regulatory burdens to ensure continued access to treatment for incarcerated persons following release, through leading the charge which eliminated Medicaid prior authorization barriers to Medication Assisted Therapy (MAT) in 2019, IMS is committed to ensuring access to prevention and treatment services for all Iowans.

The IMS commitment goes beyond policy and legislative charges.  In 2019, IMS hosted an Opioid Summit in Dubuque. This educational event, held in partnership with the Iowa Behavioral Health Association (IBHA), provided a much-needed training opportunity for healthcare providers in an area especially hard hit by opioid use disorder (OUD). IMS has also hosted training events tailored to prevention through education on appropriate prescribing of opioids as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Contrary to common misconceptions, the opioid epidemic of misuse, abuse, and addiction is not simply a “big city problem”. The opioid dilemma in Iowa has unique application as a rural state with eight of the top 10 counties most vulnerable to opioid overdoses rural counties – a situation that has only been exacerbated by the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.1

Since 2019, IMS has served as a lead consortium member as part of a targeted effort to address OUD in our rural communities. The Rural Communities Opioid Response Program (RCORP) is a multi-year Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) initiative aimed at reducing the morbidity and mortality of substance use disorder (SUD), including OUD in high-risk rural communities. Helmed by the Iowa Healthcare Collaborative, a long-time IMS partner, the RCORP initiative utilizes a multi-stakeholder approach to collectively address OUD through evidence-based best practices from prevention through treatment and recovery.

In this work, IMS leads the physician engagement and education efforts to amplify local community readiness to address opioid use/misuse. From this effort, IMS has and will continue to provide:

  • Tailored education to better understand opioid use, misuse, and addiction in our rural communities.
  • Practical approaches to identifying people at risk through Screening, Brief Intervention, Referral, and Treatment (SBIRT).
  • Connection to local treatment, recovery, and support services for patients in-need.
  • Access to addiction medicine specialists, such as IMS board member and Director of the University of Iowa’s Opioid Addiction Clinic, Dr. Alison Lynch.
  • MAT education & training to prepare, support, and empower MAT-waivered providers.
  • Support for advancing reimbursement for SUD/OUD services and promoting enhanced incentives for healthcare providers who practice in rural Iowa and provide OUD screening & services.

Through these efforts and more, IMS is equipping healthcare providers with the knowledge, tools, and support they need to address opioid addiction and care for patients who use opioids – from prevention and appropriate prescribing to treatment and long-term recovery.

For more information about IMS’ opioid initiatives, please contact Kady Reese, kreese@iowamedical.org.


1 Iowa Department of Public Health. Bureau of HIV, STD, and Hepatitis. Iowa County-level Vulnerability Assessments for Risk of Opioid Overdoses and Rapid Dissemination of HIV and Hepatitis C. December 2019.

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