Collaborating to Make a Difference

Lauren Lollini spoke at the NAADDI Health Facility Diversion Conference in Cincinnati, OH on October 28th.

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Kim New, Lauren Lollini, John Burke

Once I was found to have Hepatitis C, while the walls appeared to be crumbling around me, I saw a light and chose to walk toward it. That light was the opportunity to share my story and reach out to others in an effort to make a difference. I did nothing more than relate the facts, share my emotion and help others understand the possibility of change.

My work with HONOReform became a very easy collaboration. Working with others who were as passionate as I to reach out and educate and explore the solutions to stopping outbreaks. HONOReform had made great strides forward in safeguarding the medical injection process.

My collaboration with HONOReform has led to another fabulous connection with the National Association of Drug Diversion Investigators (NADDI). The fine folks at NADDI are offering a space for law enforcement, healthcare professionals as well as state regulatory agencies and pharmaceutical manufacturers to team up in the investigation and prevention of prescription drug abuse and diversion. NADDI focuses on education and training, offering ways to share information and tighten systems to prevent drug diversion situations and opportunities.

I had the privilege of attending the Health Facility Diversion Conference they held on October 28th in Cincinnati. The conference gathered 150 healthcare professionals and law enforcement officers, two unique groups of professionals, coming together to learn and share information. From my perspective, just the idea of a hospital sponsoring such an event took my breath away. A hospital wanting to take a preemptive stroke toward safety was so encouraging and hopeful. The stories which fill my email inbox each day are often ones of mistakes made and patients hurt.

But when you meet some of the people behind NADDI, you immediately understand their passion and desire. You can see their need to help, to somehow do more to eliminate drug diversions as a threat in our healthcare system. Meeting with Commander John Burke, NADDI President, the evening before allowed me the opportunity to hear his background, to hear his own story and more fully understand why he does what he does. John has been in law enforcement for 43 years and now serves as the Commander of Greater Warren County (OH) Drug Task Force. He travels the nation sharing his wisdom and encouraging others to be on alert. But more importantly, John has found a way to better combine law enforcement and healthcare facilities, allowing them to work as a team to track down drug diverters.

Between October of 2008 and April oF 2009, Kristin Parker was able to continually divert syringes of fetanyl for her own use, injecting herself and then filling the syringes with saline and returning them to surgical trays meant for patients. She detailed to law enforcement after her arrest how easy the task of diverting drugs had been for her. And as her story unfolded, so did the tales of the numerous warning signs she exhibited. The operating rooms she had been found in which she had not been assigned. The erratic behaviors. And even so much as a stick of a fellow employee from a needle hidden in her pocket. So many warning signs and so many people infected with Hepatitis C because she had found a way around the hospital systems in the first day or two of her employment there. How things would have been different for all of us who had had surgeries at Rose Medical Center over the course of those months, not just those of us infected with Hepatitis C, but everyone who had received a letter informing them of possible infection and all the employees who were also put into harms way. NADDI is pushing the bar higher, doing more to insure drug diverters are identified and stopped more quickly.

It becomes quite clear how shared information can prevent outbreaks like the one at Rose Medical Center in Colorado as well as the more recent situation at Exeter Hospital in New Hampshire. With the right collaboration, the proper agencies can more easily exchange information and with the mix of healthcare and law enforcement efforts, changes can be made more quickly.

The example of how this can work is happening at the University of Tennessee Medical Center. Kimberly New, RN, BSN, JD is the Compliance Specialist in charge of controlled substance surveillance, diversion detection and regulatory reporting. Kim is also on the Executive Board at NADDI. On regular speaking engagements, she shares how her medical center and team has been able to eliminate the gaps in the system. Kim is able to provide proven methods of detection and surveillance that have been most successful. So it is not a matter of reinventing new procedures, they have been identified and tested. It is a matter of having healthcare facilities step up and adapt these protocols.

As I stood before the 150 attendees at the diversion conference last month, looking in their eyes as I told my story, I got a better understanding of how difficult a task we all have. But the hope I saw in the eyes of these professionals as well as the people behind NADDI’s effort is a determination to make things safer, to leave no stone unturned, in preventing drug diversions. I saw a group of professionals brought together for a common goal. But perhaps the most enlightening piece to it all is the hope I saw for all of us.

For more information on NADDI, please visit them at www.naddi.org

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