Safer Pain Management & Substance Use

Treating pain safely, preventing and treating opioid and other substance use disorders, and reducing overdoses are major healthcare priorities for MAHEC, our region, and state.

Western North Carolina has higher than state and national averages of opioid-related overdose deaths and opioid prescribing rates. Our region also has higher rates of substance use, including opioid use disorder (OUD), and behavioral health disorders.

MAHEC’s Substance Use Disorder Taskforce brings together MAHEC clinicians, health educators, public health professionals, and researchers to address the impact of opioids and substance use disorders (SUDs) have on overall health and well-being. The task force guides OUD/SUD initiatives that include training for residency programs statewidehealthcare provider education, innovative primary care treatment for pregnant and parenting women, community engagement and education, and clinical research.

MAHEC is a strategic partner at the local, regional, and state level in support of North Carolina’s Opioid Action Plan 2.0, which prioritizes three core strategies: prevention, reducing harm, and connecting people to care.

Specific overdose prevention strategies include:

  • Increase the use of opioid-sparing pain treatment
  • Use the Controlled Substances Reporting System to reduce opioid overprescribing
  • Reduce the supply of diverted and illicit opioids
  • Reduce youth misuse of drugs
  • Prevent trauma, including the reduction of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) and increase resiliency to trauma
  • Improve prenatal, maternal, and infant care for women with substance use disorders

We are also a member of the National Academy of Medicine's Action Collaborative on Countering the U.S. Opioid Epidemic. Visit NAM's website to learn more about this collaborative effort and view other member organizations.

You can learn more about MAHEC's and North Carolina's opioid iniatives in this town hall meeting on Jan. 16, 2019, with NC Attorney General Josh Stein, Senator Jim Davis, MAHEC's Melinda Ramage, FNP, and Waynesville Police Chief Bill Hollinshead.

Video segment courtesy News 13 WLOS.

Our pain management and SUD initiatives address each of these priorities across the lifespan including comprehensive treatment for pregnant women with substance use disorders, office-based opioid treatment for established family medicine patients as part of our comprehensive primary care services, and safe pain management for youth, adult, elderly, and chronic pain patients.

There are many ways you can partner with MAHEC to bring pain management and OUD/SUD prevention and education services to those who need it most in your community. You can learn more by exploring recent news stories or by contacting us at

Substance Use Resources and Education

If you would like to arrange for opioid-related education for your community or organization, please fill out our Opioid Education Request form.