UMass nursing students on the front-lines of opioid crisis

In 2016, 47 people died from opiate abuse in Hampshire County

AMHERST, Mass. (WWLP) – Not all nursing students and medical students across the country are trained to deal with addicted patients, but UMass Amherst students are.

The nurses are taught a multitude of skills in specialized clinics from bedside manner, to recognizing the signs of addiction. On Monday, about 200 of the nurses attended an on-campus social justice conference on substance abuse to learn as much as they can about the opiate crisis in Massachusetts.

The conference helped them particularly to get a sense of the scope of the problem in Hampshire County, with speakers in law enforcement, medicine, and addicts sharing how they’ve worked or lived with the disease. Last year in Hampshire county, 47 people died from opiate use, and 600 were saved from the overdose reversal drug naloxone.

Continuing Coverage: Opioid Crisis

Nursing professor Donna Sabella is teaching students to be open to prescribing treatments other than pills.She said, “We need to focus on pain relief that doesn’t involve pills. I lived in Brazil for awhile. We had a joke in Portuguese that said, ‘Americans, they’ve got a pill for that. They’ve got a pill for everything!’ Well, we do, unfortunately.”

Addiction is not only killing loved ones, but putting them in prison as well. Hampshire county District Attorney Dave Sullivan said the sheriff’s office depends on nurses to to help officers deal with this problem. Sullivan told 22News, “Getting them early intervention and treatment, and really getting them on the treatment end of things before the end-game of arresting them for crimes.”

They must be doing something right. DA Sullivan said the rate of addicted prisoners going back to jail in Hampshire county is the lowest it’s ever been.

Working for a Better TomorrowIf you or someone you love is dealing with an addiction problem, a page has been developed to assist you begin your journey to recovery. Click Here »