News Archives

Media articles from 2018

2018 in Review: 10 WNC Health and Wellness Topics That Mattered

As in other communities across the United States, the crisis of opioid addiction and overdose continued to damage and end lives in Western North Carolina. Xpress stories explored how alternative therapies for pain might reduce addiction risk and how Mountain Area Health Education Center’s Project CARA provides holistic compassionate maternity care for pregnant women with substance use disorders.

While healthcare options abound in our region, gaining access to needed preventive services and treatment can be tricky, especially for vulnerable populations, those without health insurance and rural residents. We looked at health services provided by local nonprofits to people experiencing homelessness and MAHEC’s efforts to expand dental care options in rural areas. [read full story]


A Better World: The Opioid Crisis in Buncombe County

The U.S. is in the midst of an opioid crisis. One hundred and thirty people died every day from opioid overdoses in 2016 – 2017 in the U.S. North Carolina had 1,384 deaths. In Buncombe County, NC for the first 8 months of 2017, 230 people experienced an opioid overdose, an 84% increase over the same time in 2016. The crisis is not abating.

Tune in and listen to Episode 131 of A Better World with McNair Ezzard who speaks with to two local Buncombe County leaders, MAHEC's Dr. Blake Fagan and District Attorney Todd Williams, who discuss this crisis and what is being done to change its course. [listen now]


AAFP Joins Other Groups to Develop Well-Woman Resource
MAHEC's Daniel Frayne helps guide implementation process

The Women's Preventive Services Initiative (WPSI) from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) has created a chart summarizing age-based preventive services recommendations for women from adolescence to maturity that physicians can use during well-woman visits.

Family physician Daniel Frayne, MD, has been an integral member of WPSI's implementation steering committee, which helps drive the group's work. Frayne, who practices at the Mountain Area Health Education Center, told AAFP News the new well-woman chart breaks out specific recommendations for women during pregnancy and the postpartum period and includes information for women at any stage of life. [read full story]

New Facility in Columbus Aims To Increase Number of Rural Dentists, Dental Assistants

Marion resident Megan, 41, is mom to four children ages 4, 9, 12 and 13. Megan’s husband works full time, and his modest income exceeds the level that would allow the adults in the family to qualify for Medicaid, though their children are covered under N.C. Health Choice. After not seeing a dentist for three years, a bad toothache that kept getting worse drove Megan to explore her options.

“I even looked at regular dentists and told them I didn’t have insurance. It was like, ‘It will be this much money out the door for us to even look at you,'” she recalls. Desperate, she contacted the McDowell County Department of Social Services and learned that Mountain Area Health Education Center offers dental care on a sliding fee scale at its Glenwood clinic. [read full story]


Partnership To Expand Health Services, Education in Polk County

A new area partnership is expanding health care services and educational opportunities in rural Western North Carolina, and hopes to create more jobs and improve medical options.

Representatives from MAHEC, Isothermal Community College and St. Luke’s Hospital gathered Monday evening at the future home of the MAHEC Dental Health Center at Columbus and Foothills Medical Associates. The dental and medical care teaching practice in Polk County will support the community college’s new dental assistant program and health science students from across the state.

One goal is to attract more providers to careers in rural health care. A shortage of dental and primary health care providers is an issue across rural parts of the state, explained MAHEC CEO Dr. Jeff Heck. [read full story]


Complications During Labor Lead to Deaths at Alarming Rate

Mountain OB/GYNs say having a baby is more dangerous than ever. According to a report from nine maternal mortality review committees, including North Carolina, pregnancy complications resulted in 700 deaths and 50,000 injuries. That same study found six out of 10 of those deaths are preventable.

Western North Carolina doctors News 13 spoke with tie issues back to an increase in C-sections, women over 35 having children and closures of rural labor and delivery units.

“Last push, oh my gosh, there she is, congratulations,” Dr. Bre Bolivar said, as she ran through the training inside MAHEC’s Simulation Center. The simulation reminds medical professionals of the deadly consequences when simple safety measures aren't followed. [see full story]


MAHEC, UNC-Chapel Hill Celebrate New Interprofessional Academic Health Center
UNC Health Sciences at MAHEC expands health science education in Western North Carolina

On Oct. 23, the Mountain Area Health Education Center and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill held a special event to celebrate the construction of a new academic health center building on MAHEC’s Biltmore campus. UNC Health Sciences at MAHEC seeks to address health care worker shortages and improve education across a number of health science fields in Western North Carolina. 

UNC Health Sciences at MAHEC supports an innovative educational partnership between UNC-Chapel Hill and MAHEC and will house UNC School of Medicine’s Asheville campus; a Master of Public Health program led by UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health; MAHEC’s psychiatry residency program and psychiatry outpatient care; and health care research, education and community engagement initiatives at the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy. [read full story


Project CARA Helps Expectant Mothers with Substance Use Disorders

Leigh walked into the family nurse practitioner’s office and burst into tears. She had no insurance, a toddler to raise and a serious substance use problem. Now she was pregnant with her second child.

“I had a special-needs child, zero support and no coping strategies,” she says. Her provider was Melinda Ramage, FNP-BC, CARN-AP, clinical director and co-founder of Project CARA, MAHEC’s perinatal substance use treatment program.

Project CARA stands for Care that Advocates for Respect, Resilience and Recovery for All. Leigh came to the project in its formative stages, when the co-founders, Melinda and Marie Gannon, LCAS, LPC, were working on building a program housed at MAHEC Ob/Gyn Specialists to decrease barriers and the stigma that prevents pregnant women with substance-use disorders from getting quality obstetrical care as well as access to substance-use treatment. [read full story]


Children's Play Raises Awareness About the Dangers of Prescription Drug Misuse

The Mountain Area Health Education Center (MAHEC) is producing an original musical play for children to raise awareness about the dangers of opioids and prescription drug misuse. It’s Just a Pill will tour Western North Carolina middle schools and select middle schools in eastern NC in Spring 2019. 

The script and lyrics for the one-hour professional production were written by team of healthcare professionals at MAHEC. The musical score is being produced by David Ruttenberg, a GRAMMY® producer who has worked with Peter Gabriel, Stevie Wonder, and Janet Jackson among others. [see full story]


Healthcare Professionals Meet with WNC High School Students

More than 400 local high school students got to meet with surgery technicians, nurses, pharmacists, and other healthcare professionals at the 19th Annual Health Career Conference.

"When they get to see the professionals that are here, they actually have the opportunity to talk one on one with them," MAHEC’s Director of Health Careers and Diversity Education, Jacqueline Hallum said.

Professionals from more than 40 health careers talked with the students at the event put on by the Mountain Area Health Education Center, UNCA and other academic partners. [see full story]


Our MPH Program in Asheville

The idea behind the new UNC Gillings MPH Program in Asheville is simple,” says Travis Johnson, MD, MPH, assistant professor in the Gillings School’s Public Health Leadership Program and interim director of the MPH in Asheville, North Carolina. “We admire the Gillings School’s master’s program, and we wanted to make it happen here, to draw people to learn and live in Western North Carolina – and hopefully to stay and work here, where they are needed, after they graduate.”

The residential program employs a hybrid format that combines online tools with weekly face-to-face classes, held at UNC Asheville and the Mountain Area Health Education Center (MAHEC). The degree’s format enables working professionals to hone their public health leadership skills with Gillings School and UNC Asheville faculty members and community health practitioners. [see full story]


UNCA, ABIPA, MAHEC Get Grant to Research Race in Western North Carolina

Three Buncombe County groups are exploring racism and health among African Americans in rural Western North Carolina. And their efforts have been rewarded.

Community collaborators Je’Wana Grier-McEachin, executive director of the Asheville Buncombe Institute of Parity Achievement; Ameena Batada, associate professor of health and wellness at UNC Asheville; and Jill Fromewick, research scientist at the Mountain Area Health Education Center, have been awarded an Interdisciplinary Research Leaders grant totaling $350,000 from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The goal of the study is to reduce the impact of racism and positively influence health outcomes. [see full story]


Is There a Risk to Naloxone?

Though the surgeon general recommends more people carry naloxone to enable opioid overdose reversals, economists in a recent study argue that greater access increases crime and incentivizes drug use. They allege naloxone allows people who survive an overdose after receiving naloxone to go on to commit more “opioid-related” crimes. They claim the cost of reversing overdoses is burdensome, arguing some people may need to be reversed again. They correlate changing naloxone laws with increasing rates of opioid use and suggest naloxone increases such use by “providing a safety net.” They argue that naloxone presents a moral hazard, an insurance policy guarding opioid users from the consequences of their actions. Yet no credible evidence exists that providing naloxone increases compensatory substance use, and economic arguments do not tell human stories. [read full commentary]


MAHEC Ob/Gyn Specialists Receives National Spotlight for Quality Practice

MAHEC Ob/Gyn Specialists has just been featured by the National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA) in a practice spotlight. In 2016, MAHEC introduced quality improvements to ensure ob/gyn patients get the quality care they need and want to receive. This continuous improvement process led to NCQA Patient-Centered Specialty Practice recognition and improved patient volume, access to care, patient engagement, referral tracking, workflow efficiency, and patient satisfaction.

Quality improvements included the introduction of new shared decision-making tools, patient outreach, and pre-visit preparation processes that reduced patient wait times and improved access and quality of care. [read full spotlight]


Collaboration Is Key but Challenging for Organizations Fighting Food Insecurity

Western North Carolina faces a unique set of challenges and opportunities when it comes to food security, with one of the highest percentages of food-insecure individuals in the country. In spite of these challenges, WNC food-security organizations are making impressive progress at connecting and supporting each other’s needs.

MAHEC health improvement specialist Terri March focuses on optimizing impact. One of her priorities is the Community Health Improvement Project. “CHIP is intentionally a collective impact process that recognizes the impact of one agency by itself is not likely to make a significant difference across a county with complex health and social issues like food insecurity,” she says.
[read full article]


Small Steps Toward Big Changes: Women Help Women

Small steps often give cause for big celebrations. For 50 women in Madison, Mitchell and Yancey counties, the past year has brought personal victories and life changes thanks to outreach and understanding from Vaya Health’s peer support specialists with the TRACES program.

TRACES – Toe River Advocates for Community Education and Support – aims to prevent women in the three-county area from using drugs or alcohol while pregnant and encourage recovery, wellness, and hope. The program is funded through a two-year Duke Endowment grant to the Mountain Area Health Education Center (MAHEC). Almost all women referred to the program are facing addiction to prescription opioids or methamphetamines, as well as mental health concerns. [read full article]


Healthcare, Immigration, More at LWV Candidate Forum

When asked about the strengths in the delivery of health services in Western North Carolina, NC Senator Chuck Edwards said the clear strength is the higher education system in place, as well as incredible doctors, nurses and health professionals, noting some of the finest are right in his district.

He said he would continue to look for opportunities to bring top talent in the health care field to the region, noting the medical school at the Mountain Area Health Education Center (MAHEC). He said Henson, McGrady, himself and many other legislators worked hard to secure that funding after realizing deficiencies in numbers of surgeons and doctors who tend to practice where they go to school. [read full article]


Gov. Cooper Wants More Federal Money To Fight Opioids

Gov. Roy Cooper gave state health officials the go ahead Monday to immediately apply for a $25 million grant from Washington. The money would go toward prevention, treatment and recovery services for an estimated 5,000 people across North Carolina.

"We're asking for grants or trying to get a little bit more funding for the future," said Dr. Blake Fagan, chief education officer at Mountain Area Health Education Center. "Every little bit of money helps us with this opioid crisis. We probably need enough funding to cover maybe closer to 100,000 people in North Carolina that are in their addiction and not able to receive services currently," he said. [see full story]


Here’s How to Use the Opioid Overdose Reversal Drug Naloxone

Naloxone use is increasingly common as communities across the country grapple with the effects of opiate addiction. The American Society of Addiction Medicine recommends that those who are at risk for an overdose—as well as their friends, family, or other potential bystanders—should consider carrying the drug and undergo training to learn how to use it.

“Because naloxone blocks the effects of opiates in the body, when a person wakes up, they may show withdrawal symptoms, such a vomiting, achiness, or anxiety,” Blake Fagan, MD, chief education officer at Mountain Area Health Education Center, tells SELF. [read full article]


Medical Experts Host Opioid Crisis Conference in Asheville

Medical experts with MAHEC and Mission Health hosted an opioid crisis conference on Thursday at MAHEC in South Asheville. Panels included people who are working on the front lines of the opioid epidemic. 

The discussions gave attendees an idea of the current state of the opioid crisis but focused on the ethics of opioid treatment and prescriptions.

The North Carolina attorney general, who has made opioids a top priority, was expected to give the keynote address to end the conference. [see full story]


Alternative Pain Therapies May Reduce Addiction Risk

At the Mountain Area Health Education Center, for example, treating pain involves more than just pushing pills. For starters, cognitive behavioral therapy helps patients think differently about their pain. “We have lots of data on how behavioral therapy can actually reduce their pain,” says Dr. Blake Fagan. “There is good, solid data that treating a patient’s depression that is a result of that pain helps to decrease their pain."

Fagan, however, also stresses the need for more scientific research to assess different therapies’ effectiveness.

“We have data on behavioral therapy. We have data on treating patients’ depression. We have data on acupuncture,” he says. “But there haven’t been any randomized, controlled trials on CBD or kratom. I don’t think we in the medical community can say these are safe alternatives, because we just don’t know.” [read full article]


Stories from Mothers of Color Spur New Effort in Buncombe County to Fight Infant Mortality

Smart McMillan gave birth to twins, though one baby died before leaving the hospital. Stories like Smart McMillan’s have been told often by black mothers like her who have suffered the loss of a baby, or nearly died themselves while giving birth. Black babies in Buncombe County were two times more likely to die than white babies in 2016. That rate had increased to three times more likely in 2018, according to a May report by Mountain Area Health Education Center. 

MAHEC has teamed with Mothering Asheville, which guides a community-based doula program aimed at supporting women throughout their pregnancy. "Mothering Asheville is a movement that emerged after a grant opportunity from the Blue Cross Blue Shield of NC Foundation," said Maggie Adams, a grant project manager at MAHEC who works closely with the doula program. [read full article]


MAHEC Selects Daniel J. Frayne, MD, as new President

With support from the search committee and senior leadership team, MAHEC is pleased to announce that Dan Frayne will assume the newly created role of MAHEC President in July. Since joining MAHEC in 2006 as a Family Medicine physician, Dan has held many leadership roles including medical director for all MAHEC Family Health Centers, medical director for Regional Services, and Associate Professor at UNC Chapel Hill School of Medicine, to name a few.

For those of you who know Dr. Frayne, you have likely witnessed his innovative teaching style, tireless commitment to accessible culturally appropriate healthcare for all people in Western North Carolina, and relentless dedication to quality improvement. He has a proven track record of being an astute visionary, and his successes have had far-reaching positive impacts on our entire organization. [read full article]


Medication-Assisted Treatment as an Answer to the Opioid Epidemic

Elaine Ellis from the North Carolina Medical Society speaks with MAHEC's Dr. Blake Fagan, MD, who discusses the challenges physicians face in treating patients with chronic pain including risks for opioid dependency and overdose. He addresses new opioid prescribing limits in the recently enacted North Carolina STOP Act and shares evidence-based alternatives for chronic pain management.

Dr. Fagan also explains how primary care physicians, nurse practitioners, and physician assistants can support their patients with opioid use disorder through medication-assisted treatment (MAT) with buprenorphine. [listen to podcast]


Considering What a "Code Blue" Really Means for Patients

Let's talk about death. What? That's not at the top of your list for breakfast conversation? Well, you're not alone. Few of us want to discuss death, even though it is inevitable for us all.

As a physician working at MAHEC's Family Health Center in Asheville, there are times I need to admit patients to the hospital. When I do, I ask a question about my patient's values that spoils the illusion. If you are the patient, here's what I ask you: "If your heart were to unexpectedly stop beating - in other words, if you were to die naturally - while you are in the hospital, what would you want the doctors to do?" [read full article]


Opioid Epidemic Inundating Public-Health, Foster-Care Systems

If you think the "opioid crisis" has been overhyped, consideration of the facts discussed at this week's forum on opioid issues in Asheville may change your mind.

Deaths from drug overdoses in North Carolina surpassed deaths from motor vehicles accidents for the first time in 2010. Emergency room visits for opioid overdoses have doubled since 2009. The over-prescription of opioid painkillers and increasing availability of heroin and fentanyl on the streets has led to more than a quarter-million deaths in the past 10 years across the country.

Dr. Blake Fagan, chief education officer at the Asheville-based Mountain Area Health Education Center, made these points during his keynote speech Tuesday at the N.C. Community Association's opioid forum. [read full article]


Here Are Some Ways to Tackle the Opioid Issue in Western North Carolina, Experts Say

Making progress against the opioid epidemic requires sustained efforts to help people addicted to the painkillers before, during and after a crisis, experts said at a roundtable discussion put on by the Citizen Times.

Eighteen people from around Western North Carolina discussed local solutions and obstacles to dealing with opioids in the meeting Tuesday. The group included health care and social services professionals, five state legislators and a Buncombe County commissioner.

Blake Fagan, a family physician at the Mountain Area Health Education Center in Asheville, said there is still work to be done to get providers and patients to switch to other ways to deal with pain and, for those already addicted, provide counseling and peer support plus medicine to combat the severe symptoms of withdrawal. [read full article]


As Opioid Death Rates Spike in Minority Communities, Faith Leaders Issue Call to Action

The Rev. L.C. Ray admittedly knew little of the region's opioid crisis before his WNC Baptist Fellowship Church congregation asked him last year how they could raise awareness about of an epidemic killing an average of four people a day in North Carolina. But lack of knowledge, Ray said he decided, shouldn't translate to lack of action.

In collaboration with Buncombe County Sheriff's Office, Buncombe County Schools, Mountain Area Health Education Center (MAHEC), Asheville Police Department, Health and Human Services and additional faith groups, Ray helped to organize the event on Tuesday night.

During a presentation given by Dr. Blake Fagan, assistant director of the Family Medicine Residency Program at MAHEC, many attendees gasped and mumbled 'oh my God' as he discussed the severity of opioids and heroin in WNC. [read full article]


New Scholars Program Hopes to Address the Shortage of Healthcare Professionals in NC

A new program in the mountains is hoping to address the shortage of healthcare professionals in the state.

The NC AHEC Scholars Program will recruit, train and support selected health professions students who are committed to community service and improving health in rural and underserved urban communities in Western North Carolina where all 16 counties are federally designated health professional shortage areas.

Students from underrepresented minorities, disadvantaged/rural backgrounds, and first-generation college students are encouraged to apply for this federally funded program. [see the full story]


Burnsville Mom Helps Women Heal from Opioid, Substance Use Disorders

"I'm a graduate of Mountain Heritage, but don't hold it against me," Jessica McCurry shared with a gymnasium full of students at Madison High School in February. The laughter and playful boos bounced off well-traveled gym floors. But you could have heard a pin drop a few minutes later when Jessica, a lifelong Burnsville resident, shared her experiences from ten years of struggling with an opioid use disorder.

Now six years into her recovery, Jessica has regained control of her life and her health. Today she's using her hard-won experience to help women in Yancey County with substance use disorders find their own path to wellness through Toe River Advocates for Community Education and Support (TRACES), a community health initiative sponsored by the Mountain Area Health Education Center (MAHEC) and funded by a two-year grant from the Duke Endowment. [read full article]


How To Handle Medical Advice Requests From Friends, Family

A survey in the New England Journal of Medicine stated that 99% of the 465 responding physicians had been approached by a family member for a medical diagnosis, advice or treatment.

Despite such apparent prevalence, teaching the next generation of physicians how to handle medical requests from family and friends is often not part of the required curriculum, according to Robyn Latessa MD, director and assistant dean, University of North Carolina School of Medicine, Asheville campus located at MAHEC.

"In our program here at the UNC School of Medicine Asheville, we do touch on this topic, but that's certainly not the case across the board," she said. [read full article]


Teaming Up To Combat the Opioid Crisis

"Last year over 64,000 people died of opiate overdoses in the United States," says Dr. Blake Fagan, a family physician and Chief Education Officer with MAHEC. "The number one reason that people get into their opiate use disorder - that's the new term for opiate addiction - is from prescription medications," adds Dr. Fagan.

NC Attorney General Josh Stein is pushing to get unused pills out of homes. That's why he is teaming up with agencies across the state for medication take-back events like the one MAHEC and the Attorney General participated in on March 22 in Asheville where 650 pounds of unused medications were collected in just 4 hours. [see the full story]


Fagan: Doctors, Big Pharma Share Blame in Opioid Crisis

The Eastern Area Health Education Center co-hosted a conference featuring Dr. Blake Fagan from MAHEC in Western North Carolina and Dare County Sheriff’s Investigator Donnie Varnell who shared the best ways to handle what they said is an “epidemic” of drug abuse that kills thousands of Americans every year.

Fagan said patients should be prescribed opioids only for a few days after surgeries, and should be taught other ways to manage pain in the long term, including use of non-addictive medications, cognitive behavioral therapy, and physical therapy and exercise. [read full article]


Buncombe County Moves Up to 14th in State for Overall Health Outcomes

Buncombe County is on track to become the third healthiest community in North Carolina, according to national County Health Rankings (CHR) released by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute earlier this month. Excellent clinical care, a wealth of opportunities for physical activity, and educational achievement helped the county lead the way in the state.

"We have a wonderful Safety Net Coalition here in Buncombe County," notes Jeff Heck, President and CEO of Mountain Area Health Education Center (MAHEC). "But it doesn't matter how good our clinical care is if our community members can't access it. That's one reason we partnered with Pisgah Legal Services to ensure our patients can access the care they need." [read full article]


America Has Yet to See the Worst of the Opioid Crisis, Doctors and Nurses Caution

North Carolina's opioid deaths have risen from fewer than 200 in 1999 to 1,384 in 2016. Nationwide, overdose deaths involving prescription and illicit drugs have more than quadrupled since 1999. In 2015, the opioid overdose epidemic killed more than 33,000 people in the U.S.

Without greater intervention, the short-term outlook is bleak, said Blake Fagan, MD, a MAHEC family physician.

"We haven't hit the peak or the decline in Western North Carolina," he said. "Think of opiate use disorder as a swift-moving river - there are people in the river and they're drowning and we have to jump in and pull them out. But someone has to run up the river and see who's pushing them in." [read full article]


America's Opioid Epidemic Takes Root in the Lives of WNC Teens


Opioids have become so prevalent in America - and so easy for youths to find - that the crisis shows up in every aspect of life. Parents check arms for track marks. Resource officers are equipped with the overdose-reversal drug naloxone, commonly known by the brand name Narcan.

Alice Elio sees prevention in school as the best way to get ahead of the epidemic. As a school nurse program manager at MAHEC - an organization that helps train future doctors while providing family health care and other medical services - her efforts have been largely focused on substance abuse education over the last three years.

"We know that anyone who receives these opioids before the age of 18 are very highly susceptible to addiction," said Elio, who manages 30 nurses in 58 schools and is charged with the safety and health of 25,000 students. [read full article]


Newborns Have Become the Most Innocent Victims of America's Opioid Epidemic

The opioid epidemic is helping to change the perception of addiction, said Melinda Ramage, a family nurse practitioner on the maternal fetal medicine team for MAHEC, which serves 16 Western North Carolina counties and trains physicians and other health care professionals.

"What opioids are bringing to light is how poorly we screen people and how uncomfortable we are when talking to patients about treating their disease," Ramage said. In the past, obstetricians were reluctant to treat women battling addiction while pregnant, she said. [read full article]


Assessing Childhood Experiences to Try to Prevent Addiction

Adverse childhood experiences, or ACE, are becoming an increasingly common method used by social workers and doctors to detect the likelihood of a child becoming an addict. Dr. Blake Fagan, family physician at MAHEC in Buncombe County, described how ACE scoring works:

"If you are growing up and you see your parents beating each other, you get a point. If there is drug use in the home, you get a point. If you are abandoned by one or both parents, you get a point, and so forth," Fagan said. "It adds up, and as it goes up you're more vulnerable to having one of these substance use disorders." [read full article]


Q&A with Dr. Blake Fagan: "We Are Just as Much to Blame as Anyone"

Dr. Blake Fagan is the assistant director of the Family Medicine Residency Program at MAHEC in Buncombe County and has been a family physician for 19 years. He has made addressing the nation's opioid epidemic a focus since the death of a patient from an opioid addiction three years ago.

He now travels North Carolina with colleague Dr. Don Teater to caution other health professionals on the risk of opioid use and lobby lawmakers for protections.

In this Q&A, Fagan discusses the ways medical professionals have contributed to the epidemic and how his life has been changed. [read full article]


Worries Grow that the Opioid Epidemic Is Creating a 'Lost Generation' of Children

America's opioid crisis is harming an entire generation of children in ways that will last a lifetime.

In Western North Carolina, hundreds are entering a foster care system already burdened by a surge in opioid-related cases. Hospitals in Appalachian states sometimes spend weeks helping newborns withdraw from opioid dependency after their mothers used during pregnancy. Teens are finding easy access to prescribed and illegal opioids, such as heroin.

The Citizen Times interviewed more than 35 parents, 25 children, 50 medical professionals, 45 social workers and dozens of people from other agencies to understand the scope of the opioid crisis's effect on children in the region. [read full article]


Opioid Abuse Takes Center Stage at Town Hall

Opioids, a broad category of drugs that includes codeine, oxycodone, Vicodin, fentanyl and heroin, are at the center of a nationwide epidemic that counties across the U.S., including Buncombe, are scrambling to solve.

"We're calling it an epidemic because the number of people who are dying, particularly from overdoses of opioids whether they be … prescribed by the doctor or bought on the street, that number continues to rise," said Dr. Melissa Hoffman, a trauma surgeon with Mission Health and a fellow in hospice and palliative medicine at the Mountain Area Health Education Center. [read full article]


Fighting Opioids Through Alternatives - And Resetting Expectations On Treating Pain

Buncombe County commissioners have been holding town hall meetings in recent months regarding opioids. Those gatherings have touched on several topics, but have had one common goal - educating people on how powerful the painkillers are and how easy it is to become addicted to them.

Dr. Red Hoffman is a trauma surgeon at the Mountain Area Health Education Center, better known as MAHEC. She also focuses on hospice and palliative care in her work, so Hoffman administers and prescribes opioids frequently.

"We know that if you use opioids for five days as prescribed, the likelihood of you being on an opioid a year from now is 7%. If you use opioids for ten days as prescribed, the likelihood of you being on an opioid a year from now almost triples." [listen to news segment on NPR]


Addiction, Prevention and Recovery Are All Closer Than You Think

Dr. Blake Fagan sits down with the co-hosts of A Mindful Emergence to discuss how addiction, prevention and recovery from opioid use and substance use disorders are all closer than you might think.

This hour-long conversation addresses some of the causes of the opioid epidemic, how it is impacting WNC, and what you can do to reduce the risk for addiction and stimga in your community. They also discuss various treatment options for this chronic relapsing brain disease that include harm-reduction approaches like medication-assisted treatment that can reduce the risk for relapse. [listen to radio show #107]


Deprescribing Medications for Older Adults

Many older adults take too many prescription drugs or take them at too-high doses. Prescriptions started long ago to treat temporary medical conditions somehow never get stopped. Other preventive drugs may offer little to no benefit after a certain age and bring unacceptable side effects for older users.

Your community pharmacist can alert you to medication hazards and identify drugs that could be safely tapered and eliminated. Maximizing quality of life for older adults is a primary goal of deprescribing, says Tasha Woodall, the associate director of pharmacotherapy in geriatrics with the Mountain Area Health Education Center in Asheville, North Carolina.


News Archives