The Hunterdon County Safe Communities Coalition has been selected as one of 18 coalitions across the country to participate in the Non-Opioid Choices Project with the goal of non-pharmaceutical options for pain management.

Co-CEO of Prevention Resources, Lesley Gabel said the coalition is looking at local conditions and ways on how to improve pain management. The coalition received special training and the necessary tools to look at root causes within the local community. Gabel said in Hunterdon County there are lots of alternatives to pain management but one of the barriers is that insurance companies don't pay for it.

Gabel said these alternatives include acupuncture, massage therapy, mindfulness training and even physical therapy. But she said sometimes insurance companies limit the amount of physical therapy a patient can have, especially for senior citizens.

Unfortunately, she said from a cost standpoint, it's easier to prescribe pain management pills. So the coalition is hoping to change policies across the state, especially through insurance companies and motivations for prescribers to be able to give these other alternatives. These alternatives, in working with patients through education, are long-term healthier and have better long-term outcomes.

She said while people don't like to experience pain, it's important to understand that pain is part of the natural healing process. Opioids can mask that process.

"We know that these alternatives such as physical therapies, and other non-opioid products really do assist in long-term recovery and for better outcomes," said Gabel.

Gabel added that through the coalition, they need to work close with medical partners and insurance companies to figure out how they're going to get this done. It can't be done alone. Through partnerships, training information and knowledge, the idea is to build a task force as well as work with local legislators to figure out how to implement this not just locally, but to really have the whole state of New Jersey benefit on this project.

She also said that the coalition has launched a brand new 18-minute documentary called "The Fentanyl Factor." It describes local stories of people who have lost loved ones through fentanyl which is 50% to 100% more potent than morphine. Gabel said a lot of people in New Jersey are losing their lives to fentanyl. The documentary is free and can be found on the coalition website at www.safecoalition.org/fentanylfactor/

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