The Odessa Record -

Odessa's response to the opioid epidemic


Opioid addiction across the United States, including rural America, is very prevalent and becoming more widespread with its affects hitting closer and closer to home. In response to the opioid crisis and its effects, Odessa Memorial Healthcare Center is modifying its practice to stay consistent with current industry prescriptive practice.

On average, 115 Americans die every day from an opioid overdose. Around 66% of the more than 63,000 drug overdose deaths in 2016 involved an opioid. From 1999 to 2016, more than 630,000 people have died from a drug overdose. In 2016, the number of overdose deaths involving opioids (including prescription opioids and illegal opioids like heroin and illicitly manufactured fentanyl) was 5 times higher than in 1999.

Across the United States, even in Rural American, communities are experiencing this opioid epidemic. Anne Hazlett, USDA Assistant to the Secretary for Rural Development states, "The opioid epidemic is a pivotal challenge for many rural places. More than a health concern, the opioid crisis is an issue of rural prosperity and will take the commitment, collaboration and creativity of a wide range of partners to address."

Even right here in Odessa, we are seeing the effects of the opioid epidemic. Odessa Memorial Healthcare Center provider Rich Ervin, FNP-C, "The potential and the abuse of opioids in the community is on the rise, people are seeking them." When asked about how opioids have made their way into this rural community, Mr. Ervin explains, "It is the result of 20+ years of regulatory body's encouraging pain control and the right for patients to be pain free. When in a facility, healthcare providers are to manage patient pain." Mr. Ervin took the time to address how pain is treated, "Pain is subjective. As providers, we have to treat patients based on their complaints. Here there are few non-narcotic treatments to manage pain. Non-steroidal medications are hard on kidneys and can thin blood. Steroids can create issues that mimic diabetes in the long term. Ideally, providers would inject patients locally with steroids but they can still be systemically absorbed, which ultimately leads to needing to cure the cause in order to cure pain."

In light of changes in the industry, the Odessa Rural Health Clinic will be taking a new direction regarding its prescription practices. In the coming months, the clinic will no longer be prescribing dilaudid, methadone and soma for chronic pain management. Affected patients will be notified and given plenty of time to discuss treatment alternatives or seek a pain management clinician. Additionally, the providers, in conjunction with Dr. Andy Harris, the clinic's medical director, will be reviewing other chronic pain regimens for consistency with current recommendations.

Patients will always seek treatment for pain control. Opioids are not the only option however, appropriate use of long-term opioid therapy must be considered within the context of all pain management strategies including non-opioid pain medications and non-pharmacological treatments including acupuncture, acupressure, meditation, physical therapy, massage therapy including deep tissue manipulation are all successful treatments at controlling pain and right here in Odessa we have excellent massage therapist, Jay Llewellyn, who is highly trained and very experienced. Also in Odessa, we have injection therapy that has been very successful at managing joint pain in the knees, hips, shoulders and feet.

The opioid epidemic must be met with dedicated urgency as its devastation to victims and their families including the impact on their communities is very real and affects quality of life, the economy, and rural prosperity. OMHC as a whole is dedicated to our community and welcomes patients in need with open arms. Don't be afraid to call the Odessa Rural Health Clinic at 509-982-2614 and make an appointment to start getting the help you need.


1. Wide-ranging online data for epidemiological research (WONDER). Atlanta, GA: CDC, National Center for Health Statistics; 2017. Available at

2. Rich Ervin, FNP-C, Odessa Rural Health Clinic.


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