Murphy Administration Expands Effort to Reduce Opioid Prescribing

As part of the Murphy’s Administration strategic efforts to combat the opioid crisis, the New Jersey Department of Health and New Jersey Department of Human Services today announced the Opioid Reduction Options (ORO) program aimed at reducing opioid prescribing to treat chronic pain in hospital emergency departments.  The program will provide training and education to health systems on other pain relief options in place of opioids. The initiative builds on efforts by the Office of the Attorney General to regulate opioid prescribing, educate prescribers about the risks associated with opioids, and target enforcement efforts against reckless and criminal over-prescribers.  

“New Jersey has made some progress in reducing opioid prescribing, but we know that well over half of substance use disorders still start with a prescription,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Shereef Elnahal. “This project aims to prevent an addiction that starts with a visit to the emergency department—an important piece of the Murphy Administration’s prevention agenda in fighting the opioid epidemic.”

“We are pleased to join with the Department of Health and New Jersey's hospital leaders in advancing best practices to combat the opioid epidemic,” DHS Commissioner Carole Johnson said. “It is important to our state strategy that we make sure medical providers are aware of the options and we look forward to funding this initiative throughout the state.”

Nationally, emergency departments prescribe opioids at a rate about 17 percent. New Jersey is home to best practices that reduce opioid prescribing— St. Joseph’s Health reduced opioid prescribing down to 2 percent. The hospital has been recognized nationally.

“St. Joseph’s Health launched The Alternatives to Opioids program (ALTO®) in 2016 to offer a real solution to a rapidly growing opioid epidemic,” said Mark Rosenberg, DO, Chairman of Emergency Medicine and Chief Innovation Officer, St. Joseph’s Health. “Since then, we have witnessed tremendous success using the ALTO® protocols - reducing opioid prescriptions by over 82 percent in the St. Joseph’s Health. We are stopping addiction before it starts.”

By providing training and curriculum to hospital emergency department staff, ORO will promote best practices, such as those used at St. Joseph’s Health as well as those used at other health systems, with the goal to ultimately to reduce overall opioid prescribing in New Jersey’s emergency rooms to 12 percent or less.

“New Jersey continues to be a leader in innovative practices to stem the tragedy of opioid abuse,” said Cathleen Bennett, New Jersey Hospital Association (NJHA) President & CEO. “NJHA applauds the state for its leadership in developing the ORO program, and we’re honored to be partners with St. Joseph’s Health in bringing new opportunities for hospitals and health systems to meet patients’ needs without putting them at greater risk for opioid dependency.”

The Department of Health has partnered with NJHA to implement this program.  NJHA will be consulting closely with St. Joe’s to develop the training and curriculum and to develop a learning environment where other health system leaders in this space may share their evidence-based practices.

“The Opioid Reductions Options program announced today opens an important new front in New Jersey’s statewide fight to stop the over-prescribing of highly addictive painkillers,” said Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal. “Along with the safeguards we have put in place to stem the flow of these prescription drugs, the ORO program will help to reduce the number of individuals who become addicted to opioids in New Jersey.”