The Texas A&M Coastal Bend Health Education Center Continuing Education Department recently received the Outstanding Interprofessional Activity – Faculty/Staff Poster Award at the Interprofessional Education & Research Symposium (IPER5) held on October 23, 2019 in Bryan, Texas. The winning poster, titled, “Addressing the Opioid Crisis through Accredited Interprofessional Continuing Education,” was presented by Cheryl Bullen, Nancy Kinkler and Naida Rios to share the innovative and successful collaborations the center has fostered between health care professionals in the Coastal Bend region to address the local opioid crisis.

The drug overdose mortality rate for Nueces County reported in the 2018 County Health Rankings was 18 deaths per 100,000 population, compared to the overall rate for Texas of 10 deaths per 100,000 population.

In response to the opioid crisis happening in our backyard, the Coastal Bend Health Education Center held the Opioid and Pain Management Conference in 2018 in Corpus Christi, Texas, to increase competence among physicians on the use of opioids to ensure safer, more effective chronic pain treatment while reducing the risk of opioid use disorder, overdose and death. Concurrently with this event, the Texas A&M Health Science Center Opioid Task Force held its first meeting with professionals spanning the local health care system and community.

The learning continued in 2019 with another conference designed to provide the interprofessional health care team with current, evidence-based information on the community impact and importance of making coordinated and informed efforts to manage and treat chronic pain and to prevent overdose and deaths.

In a post-event survey, more than 80 percent of the conference participants reported changes in their practice and/or performance as a result of participating in this educational activity. These changes include new or revised protocols, policies and procedures and changes in the management and treatment of patients by using more aggressive patient monitoring; developing and implementing pain management contracts; increasing urine drug screens for chronic pain patients; using more conservative treatment options; offering alternatives to opioids; and prescribing more naloxone, an opioid overdose reversal agent.

A local task force has recently been established by Nueces County Judge Barbara Canales that will address the local opioid crisis in three areas: education, prevention and intervention. Subcommittees have been established with community leaders from law enforcement, health care, education and governmental sectors. The Coastal Bend Health Education Center will be represented in the health care and community education sectors.

Planning is underway for the 3rd Annual Opioid and Pain Management Conference to take place on February 22, 2020. This event will continue the journey to address the opioid crisis through interprofessional continuing education with a focus on new national guidelines and alternative treatment options, including psychological and behavioral strategies. Health care professionals are invited to attend, including physicians, pharmacists, nurses, nurse practitioners, physician assistants and others. More information is coming soon to cbhec.tamhsc.edu/continuing-education/conferences.html.