The Commonwealth Healthcare Corporation (CHCC), a governmental corporation, manages and operates the CNMI’s sole hospital, ancillary services including inpatient and outpatient pharmacy, laboratory, and radiology, operates a Medicare-certified dialysis unit, and oversees behavioral health services, all public health services, and the CNMI Health and Vital Statistics Office (HVSO). The CHCC also manages the only health care services on the islands of Tinian and Rota: Tinian Health Center (THC) and Rota Health Center (RHC). The CHCC is responsible for all inpatient and emergency care operations in the CNMI, most outpatient visits, behavioral health and substance abuse prevention services. With the extensive, integrated services offered from the organization, the CHCC is the most appropriate entity to prevent opioid addiction and misuse in the CNMI.
Although the opioid epidemic has not yet reached the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI), it does not mean that it will not ever arrive. Such a crisis can happen at a small, rural area such as the CNMI as well. In 2013, the opioid crisis fully engulfed Penobscot Community Health Care in Bangor, Maine with patients with opioid doses that were startlingly high . On Guam, which is 135 miles from Saipan, the capital of the CNMI, and only 56 miles from the CNMI island of Rota, they are already dealing with the opioid epidemic that is claiming lives every day. With prevention in mind, the Commonwealth Healthcare Corporation (CHCC), through this award, will develop an opioid stewardship program, making buprenorphine and naloxone readily available in the outpatient setting, establish a CNMI-Guam shared Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP), develop rapid response mechanisms to overdose and overdose deaths built on an existing surveillance system, strengthen inpatient dispense tracking, and establish multi-disciplinary teams who will develop comprehensive post-overdose, prescribing, and naloxone protocols.
By taking these steps to prevent diversion, better track controlled substances dispensing, improve prescribing practices, galvanize referrals to addiction treatment from novel access points, and strengthen the capacity for response to any future overdose outbreaks, the CHCC hopes to avoid the burden of opioid misuse and abuse that the US states have been working very hard to overcome.