The Players at the Task Force Table

Charts fly across the screen. Graphs depicting overdose rates, numbers showing government spending, lists of our own efforts spark discussion, back and forths, reminders that people are dying. This Substance Use Disorders Task Force (SUDTF) is a window into MAHEC’s broader efforts in public health –researchers, next educators, next to providers teaching, learning, problem-solving. Our internal Substance Use Disorders Task Force (SUDTF) stands as MAHEC’s central team that streamlines and organizes our opioid and substance use related efforts. What this really means is that the SUDTF is a group of crazy passionate, dedicated, and driven doers who have a million ideas and projects to help improve the lives of their patients and their communities.

As a member, I began as a confused yet amazed fly-on-the-wall taking notes on words I didn’t understand– the preverbal acronyms that could have been computer code, the nuanced language of a medical practice. I wasn’t sure how each other were linked, whose responsibilities were whose, why was there so much data? The second month of my Fellowship, I thrown the responsibility of leading the team’s meeting which was a rough trial run in organization and management. How was a supposed to tell these big-name opioid players that they needed to stop talking so we could get to the next agenda item? Guiding the group in this discussion was challenging and rocky; I forgot to include introductions, there was a classic technology snafu, I didn’t successfully adhere to the agenda etc.

However, things have improved since this point.

I’ve finally been able to differentiate the players into their different, important roles.

The Education Team: manage and create programs to educate providers and community members on treating chronic pain and substance use disorders. They work with other community practices to ensure they are treating patients with evidence based medicine.

The Family Medicine Office Based Opioid Treatment Team (OBOT): provide medication assisted treatment along with primary care to patients. Many of the providers also serve as speakers and educators for the education team.

The Obstetrics Office Based Opioid Treatment Team (OBOT): provide substance use treatment to women who are pregnant. They also serve as speakers and educators for the education team. Both of the OBOT teams serve as community leaders in this work to many of the surrounding counties.

Research Teams: conduct community based and patient centered healthcare research. They also provide research support to our provider and education teams.

Population Health: collaborate with community organizations in an effort to address social determinants of health.

Community Affiliates: There are many public health professionals as well as community affiliates from MAHEC and other organizations that work directly in the community to address the opioid crisis.

Throughout my time at MAHEC, I collaborated on projects with nearly everyone on the task force. I’ve worked with the research teams on qualitative research, the education teams on pain and substance use disorder education programs, the population health teams on community engagement, and the providers on a myriad of projects related to patient support and education. Within the past year, these players have passed legislature, published breakthrough research, provided education across the state, received grants, and continually built robust treatment services.

Each player and team has their own skills, goals, efforts, schedules. They have their own ideas, thoughts, and strategies. But each MAHEC SUDTF member is bound by the same philosophy –we are here to help our patients. Their dedication and commitment to their communities, patients—people—is inspiring and motivating. I feel immensely privileged to work alongside these individuals and am grateful for the lessons they have taught me thus far.

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