Chair Files

Hospital-County Collaboration Prevents Opioid Abuse

A health system in rural Minnesota has helped develop an innovative model to prevent prescription drug and opioid abuse. Staff at CHI St. Gabriel’s Health in Little Falls, Minn., began researching the issue after noticing that a large number of patients in the emergency department were requesting drugs for pain. According to one report, nearly a third of patients covered by the county’s Medicaid-managed insurance plan had eight or more prescriptions for opioids. In January 2015, CHI St. Gabriel’s Health received a two-year State Innovation Model grant. With this funding, the hospital hired a nurse, social worker and pharmacist to coordinate efforts to tackle the opioid abuse problem, including improving communication and patient monitoring among physicians and hospitals. It also helped establish a volunteer prescription drug task force, which meets monthly and has participation from the county sheriff’s office, local police department, county social service and public health agencies, local school district, local pharmacies and home health services, and skilled nursing facilities. As a result, prescription drug usage has decreased, lowering costs substantially. From January through April 2016, the difference in total Medicaid claims paid was $2.3 million less than the same time in 2015. The Morrison County Prescription Drug Task Force, which includes representatives from the health system and its foundation, received the 2016 Minnesota Rural Health Team Award from the state’s Department of Health.

For more information, contact Kathleen Lange, foundation director, at, or Rhonda Buckallew, clinic administrator, at


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