PAthways Progam Helps Prepare Healthcare Workers to Tackle Substance Abuse Disorder

By Ryan Clark
CHS Communications Director

Fact: Greater than half a million Kentuckians struggle with substance use disorder.

That’s why the PAthways to a Healthier Kentucky Program is so important, say those in the Physician Assistant Studies Program in the College of Health Sciences.  

“The PAthways to a Healthier Kentucky offers an opportunity for all who serve patients with substance use disorder to come together and share best practices and innovations in care,” says Ashley Quinlan, PA-C, MSPAS, and Assistant Professor in Physician Assistant Studies. “This year we are excited to welcome presenters from various fields, including criminal justice, to speak to the complexity and nuances of this vulnerable population.” 

In 2020, Cheryl Vanderford, MPAS, PA-C, and an Assistant Professor in the Department of Physician Assistant Studies, received a $367,000 grant from the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) Center for Substance Abuse Treatment. 

Part of that grant funds the PAthways to a Healthier Kentucky conference, which will be held from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., May 31, at the Karpf Auditorium at UK Chandler Hospital (and also on Zoom).

The program will help those in need get the treatment they deserve, PA officials say. Not only will this training provide help to those with Opioid Use Disorder, but it will also give PAs an additional skillset on the job market.

The conference also offers a maximum of 7 AMA PRA Category 1 Credits, and is HB1 approved, meaning it counts toward a DEA license, Quinlan said. Speakers include Emily Murphy, EdD, MPAS, PA-C, DFAAPA and Clinical Professor Department of Family and Preventive Medicine, University of Utah; and Megan Higgins Yim, PA and Head of Clinical Operations, Tono Health, Brooklyn, New York.

In 2021, the Kentucky Justice and Public Safety Cabinet and Office of Drug Control Policy (ODCP) announced that the state’s 2020 Overdose Fatality Report showed more than 1,964 Kentuckians died from drug overdoses in 2020 — a 49 percent increase in drug overdose deaths compared to the previous year.

The reason?

According to resident cases autopsied by the Kentucky Office of the Medical Examiner and toxicology reports submitted by Kentucky coroners, the increase in the death toll was driven mostly by a rise in opioid abuse, which was found in 1,393 cases, or about 71 percent of all overdose deaths for the year.

It’s numbers like this that have Kentucky consistently ranked in the top 10 nationally for opioid-related deaths.

And that further proves why conferences like PAthways are necessary.

“It is through such education and interprofessional work that we can truly improve the health of the Commonwealth,” Quinlan said.

To Register, visit this link.