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Dr. Jill Warrington Calls For The ‘Healing Power Of Compassion’ In Opioid Fight

Bayla Metzger / VPR
Dr. Jill Warrington, the Chief Medical Officer at diagnostic lab Aspenti Health, says telehealth innovations can help treat substance abuse in rural areas of Vermont.

Drug abuse and addiction are among rural Americans' top concerns, according to a new NPR poll. Dr. Jill Warrington is the Chief Medical Officer at South Burlington diagnostic lab, Aspenti Health, where she focuses on treating substance abuse in Vermont.

Warrington says the opioid crisis consists of two stages: the first phase consisted of prescription opioid abuse, and the second involves the use of heroin and fentanyl. She says Vermont is generally doing well when it comes to combatting prescription opioid abuse.

“We see, what I call, the turning off of the spicket,” she says. “Prescription opiate prescribing is going down.”

But that doesn’t hold true across the board. A heat map produced by Aspenti Health shows that there are still high rates of prescription opioid abuse in some Vermont counties, including Windham, Franklin and Orleans. Warrington says that’s in line with the wisdom that illicit substances, such as heroin, cocaine and fentanyl, tend to track along state highway systems.

“By seeing that, it gives law enforcement officers, public health officials and treatment providers an insight into where one should put resources.”

Listen to the VPR interview with Warrington above.

Credit Aspenti Health
The percentages show the number of positive toxicology tests divided by the total number of tests ordered from each Vermont county from March 2016 to March 2017.

Aspenti Health hosted a conference earlier this week in Burlington, called "Innovations for Outcomes: Access 2018," which focused on some of the creative ways healthcare providers are lowering the barriers to drug abuse treatment in rural areas. For example, Warrington says, strides have been made in the area of telemedicine, which allows patients in rural areas to receive one-on-one care from healthcare professionals that aren't nearby, as well as telemonitoring, which enables caretakers to watch patients take drugs to ensure they’re adhering to treatment plans.

Despite innovation in the industry, Warrington says one of her main takeaways is that human connectivity and the “healing power of compassion” will always be an imperative part of treatment.

“Every single one of us, those of us in the healthcare profession and those outside, should be actively working away from judgement.”

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