September 26, 2018

UMass Memorial forms opioid task force, names chief opioid officer

Photo/Grant Welker
UMass Memorial Health Care's Memorial Campus in Worcester. The hospital network is more aggressively targeting opioid addiction.

UMass Memorial Health Care has created an opioid task force to collect data on opioid use, establish priorities for patient care initiatives and catalog efforts to prevent and treat opioid use.

The new board, which was announced by UMass Memorial on Sept. 21, will be led by Dr. Kavita Babu, a toxicologist and emergency medicine physician at the hospital. Babu, who is also an associate professor at the UMass Medical School, was named the hospital's chief opioid officer.

The task force is made up of content experts, bedside caregivers and leaders from across the healthcare organization, UMass Memorial said.

The formation of the task force comes as opioids — including heroin and prescriptions such as OxyContin — continue to kill more than a thousand people each year in Massachusetts. Opioids were deemed by the state Department of Public Health as responsible for at least 1,909 deaths last year and an estimated 1,017 through the first six months of 2018.

Of the 2017 total, 268 were in Worcester County and 78 in the city of Worcester itself, according to the Department of Public Health.

UMass Memorial said it wants to optimize access to treatment and empower its caregivers with the knowledge, tools and facilities needed to care for patients.

"Our caregivers see the scope of the opioid crisis across clinical environments," Babu said in a statement. "As an organization we have come to realize that a multidisciplinary approach that cuts across all phases of interactions with opioids is needed."

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