Matt Lasley | GC News-Gazette U.S. Rep. Brett Guthrie (R-KY), middle, speaks with Twin Lakes Regional Medical Center CEO Wayne Meriwether, left, during a meeting Tuesday afternoon, as Guthrie's Field Representative and District 7 state Rep. Suzanne Miles reads a PowerPoint on the hospital's efforts to combat opioid abuse.

Matt Lasley | GC News-Gazette

U.S. Rep. Brett Guthrie (R-KY), middle, speaks with Twin Lakes Regional Medical Center CEO Wayne Meriwether, left, during a meeting Tuesday afternoon, as Guthrie's Field Representative and District 7 state Rep. Suzanne Miles reads a PowerPoint on the hospital's efforts to combat opioid abuse.

U.S. Rep. Brett Guthrie, R-Ky., visited Twin Lakes Regional Medical Center on Tuesday afternoon to learn about the Leitchfield hospital's addiction services.

The visit follows Guthrie's announcement earlier this month that he and other House leaders are launching a new phase of their opioid investigation and are requesting information from the public about treatment for opioid use disorder.

Hospital CEO Wayne Meriwether opened the discussion and said Kentucky, as of 2017, was ranked seventh in the country for the number of opioids prescribed per capita: 113.8 per 100 people.

"We have a problem, we realize that," said Meriwether.

In an effort to be more proactive toward the treatment of addiction, TLRMC has established the medical stabilization program, as well as Maternal Opioid Medical Stablization (MOMS), the latter of which was introduced by Dr. Sam Buck and Nurse Practitioner Kristin Buck.

According to TLRMC Addiction Services Director Jessica Embry, over the past two years the hospital has offered addiction treatment services, it has seen around 250 patients, and, since the establishment of the MOMS program in July, the hospital has treated six mothers.

Dr. Buck said that the decision to establish the MOMS program followed the hospital's discovery that around 5 percent of the 400 babies born at TLRMC each year are born to addicted mothers, and one can see that the mothers' addiction affects the babies, who are born suffering from withdrawal symptoms.

While the initial reaction to this trend was anger and disgust, Dr. Buck said, providers have decided to instead attempt to make a positive difference and diagnose and treat these addictions just as they would any other ailment.

"Our goal is to see how many babies can be born without withdrawal," Dr. Buck said.

Kristin Buck said that many expectant mothers suffering from addictions do not seek prenatal care for fear their addiction will become known by others.

Guthrie's field representative, Suzanne Miles, who also serves as state representative for District 7, questioned how many addicted mothers treated by the hospital wish to keep their babies after they are born, and, Dr. Buck said, for the most part they all do.

"The ones who have enrolled, that's their motivating factor," he said.

In the near future, the hospital is also looking to expand its addiction services through Medication Assisted Treatment, which combines behavioral therapy and medications to treat substance use disorders, and the opening of a hepatitis C clinic.

Additionally, TLRMC Chief Quality Officer Brittany Clemons, RN, said the hospital is taking part in The Joint Commission's (a national organization that accredits more than 21,000 U.S. health care organizations and programs) opioid stewardship program to compare the number of opioids prescribed at TLRMC to that of other healthcare providers.

Clemons said the hospital has already taken measures to reduce the number of opioids prescribed.

Guthrie added that, on the federal level, legislators are also scrutinizing prescription distributors to determine whether they are sending out too many opioids to pharmacies.

He said legislators have held multiple hearings on the opioid epidemic and have seen a rise in the mother mortality rate, likely due to addiction. He commended the hospital for its efforts to treat addiction symptoms prenatally and, by doing so, helping not only the baby but the mother as well.

"Many are worried, and it's bipartisan," Guthrie said. "A lot of people are working together to address it."

Another issue, Guthrie said, legislators are looking to address is how to make new healthcare breakthroughs more affordable and accessible.