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Bethany A DiPaula, PharmD, BCPP
Chair, Substance Use Disorders Committee (SUDs)

We all know that opioid overdose-related deaths continue to increase while access to medication-assisted treatment (MAT) remains a challenge. Opioid use disorder is a national emergency and can only be addressed by enlisting all available resources. However, for various reasons, psychiatric pharmacists continue to be underutilized in fighting this epidemic. Again, we all know that psychiatric pharmacists are uniquely trained experts in managing and monitoring psychiatric patients including those with SUD. CPNP is now taking action to ensure that unique expertise is further honed and is recognized within the healthcare system.

In 2014, CPNP created the Substance Abuse Taskforce (SATF). The dedicated SATF members met regularly over several years, received 2 grants from the Providers Clinical Support System-Opioids (PCSS-O) and produced a webinar, “Putting Naloxone into Action” as well as 2 toolkits “Naloxone Access: A Practical Guideline for Pharmacists” and “Opioid Use Disorders: Interventions for Community Pharmacists.” These publications received state and national interest. In addition, SATF began networking and advocating for pharmacists to be included as DATA waivered prescribers.

Recently, CPNP’s Board of Directors approved the formalization of the Substance Use Disorders Committee (SUDs) and expanded its charges to include:

  1. Structure and Objectives: Establish a structure within CPNP, which allows for rapid response and access to expert members in the area of substance use disorders (SUDS). Additionally, establish an action plan consisting of specific objectives and timelines in cooperation with identified expert members.
  2. Education: Provide educational experiences that establish pharmacy experts who can improve the care and treatment of people with the disease of addiction and advance the practice of addiction treatment.
  3. Resources: Distribute practical guidelines and online resources for pharmacists involved in the treatment of SUDS.
  4. Advocate: Advocate for increased access to care by promoting the important role of pharmacists in the treatment of SUDS.
  5. Pharmacy Workforce: Contribute to the development of a pharmacy workforce to support increased access to treatment in SUDS.

The expansion of educational opportunities and creation of toolkits were viewed as the top priority tasks for the committee to work on in 2018. Also important was to continue to work with other associations to advocate for the expansion of the DATA waiver to include pharmacists with collaborative drug therapy management protocols as buprenorphine prescribers.

It is envisioned that the toolkits will consist of a series of documents designed to provide our membership and pharmacists from other settings with salient information for managing specific areas of SUD. These publications do not replace guidelines but instead highlight important information for pharmacists in a focused and easy to digest product. The first toolkit addresses alcohol use disorder and should be available by late spring. Additional resources on harm reduction and benzodiazepine use disorder will follow.

The Workgroup collaborated with the Annual Meeting Program Committee to develop the CPNP pre-meeting symposium, “Creative and Collaborative - Pharmacists on the Front-line of Medication Assisted Treatment for Opioid Use Disorder.” The program is designed to demonstrate innovative and actionable ways to include pharmacists on the MAT interprofessional team and explore the pharmacist’s role in addressing controversies and challenges in providing MAT with regard to state and federal legislative limitations. Additionally, with there being no current formal training program to certify pharmacists to manage patients with opioid use disorder. The Substance Use Education Workgroup will gather immediately before CPNP 2018 to evaluate the design and content of a flexible certificate program intended to prepare pharmacists to provide direct patient care for patients with opioid use disorder.

The driving force behind the SUDs work is to expand access to treatment through pharmacists. In a team-based care environment, it is critical to increase interdisciplinary understanding of the role pharmacists can play in managing SUD patients. For that reason, I, Sarah Melton, and Troy Moore will be presenting “Interprofessional Excellence: Integrating Pharmacists into the MAT Team” on April 3 at the 2018 National RX and Heroin Summit, the largest national collaboration of professionals from local, state, and federal agencies, business, academia, treatment providers, and allied communities impacted by prescription drug abuse and heroin use.

CPNP recognizes the need for expanded access to treatment for patients with substance use disorders. The SUDC is actively working towards preparing our membership and advocating for this very important role!

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