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Is Telemedicine The Next Tool for Combatting Opioids?


Telemedicine is playing a big role in California's fight against the opioid epidemic. President Trump declared the problem a national crisis last week.

Dr. David Copenhaver is hoping that the announcement will translate into federal funding for state efforts. He's part of a team at UC Davis trying to educate doctors about opioid prescription via telemedicine.

Their telemedicine program, launched in 2014, now serves 30 rural clinics from Eureka to Los Angeles. Copenhaver says it's a vital part of the state's plan to create "hubs and spokes" for addiction prevention.

The doctors are creating 20-minute 'Ted Talk'-style webinars about how to safely prescribe opioids. 

"The idea for understanding substance abuse treatment, understanding the risk factors for substance abuse, understanding how to treat substance abuse with regard to opioids, how to actually use it and develop a clinic in your local area, understand these patients, is really part of what the hubs and spokes system is."

Doctors, public health officers and patient advocates are working together to help reduce the number of painkiller prescriptions written each year. It dropped four percent in Sacramento county between 2014 and 2015.

Dr. Olivia Kasirye, public health officer for Sacramento County, says that's a step in the right direction. She's been working to supply fire trucks, ambulances and police cars with Naloxone - an overdose antidote.

"We are seeing more resources coming in terms of grants ... we’re hoping we’ll be able to get more assistance in being able to provide Naloxone, and also to support some of the stakeholder groups." 

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