State forms battle plan in fight against addiction

OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) -- It takes teamwork to fashion a big win and Nebraska has a team on the field in the battle against the formidable foe of addiction.

The Department of Health and Human Services is partnering with Governor Pete Ricketts and the University of Nebraska Medical Center in a critical step forward.

Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson said, “This is not a crisis you can arrest your way out of."

According to DHHS, substance abuse disorder has tangled the lives of one in five Nebraskans. They go on to say only 15% of people suffering from addiction have access to treatment.

DHHS Divisional Director Sheri Dawson said this affects, “Individuals that we love, that we go to church with, that we are in communities with. And by statistics - people in this room. We have an opportunity to have professionals that can make a difference in the lives of people in Nebraska."

That opportunity is the new Addiction Medicine Fellowship Program. A program focused on education, prevention and treatment.

Gov. Ricketts said, “It'll be a way that we can help educate those physicians and other health care professionals about addiction medicine, help get them the training so they can be the frontline in continuing to prevent, evaluate and treat addiction in Nebraska."

It’s a two-part program: a month-long introduction for doctors, nurses and physician assistants on what it takes to help people who are addicted and an in-depth, yearlong program.

UNMC Assistant Professor of Psychiatry and Addiction Division Director Dr. Kenneth A. Zoucha said it’s, “for physicians who want to gain high-level expertise in the management of complex substance abuse disorders."

The program is kicking off in a few weeks. The first fellow, Dr. Andrea Parde, starts training in September.

She tells 6 News she is delighted to get started.

Funding for this campaign comes through a grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration that gives every state $2 million a year for two years to fight the opioid crisis.

Nebraska is the first in the nation to use a portion of the money for an addiction medicine fellowship.

"We have dedicated about $600,000 of that initial 2 million for these programs," Dawson said. "We'll just continue to evaluate that funding as the opportunity arises and hopefully successes drive that."

In addition, Nebraska received $4 million in state opioid response grants from the federal government for two years.