New innovative initiative tackles alarming increase in opioid dependence in regional communities

New innovative initiative tackles alarming increase in opioid dependence in regional communities


May 1 2019


New innovative initiative tackles alarming increase in opioid dependence in regional communities


ScriptWise has welcomed a new collaborative regional prevention initiative, Project ECHO, as part of this year’s Medication Dependence Prevention Month starting on May 1st, 2019.


Statistics show regional areas are disproportionately feeling the impacts of Australia’s prescription opioid crisis with deaths related to pharmaceutical opioids increasing by 148 per cent between 2008-2014.


In response, regional organisation, Primary Care Connect, under their Hume Area Pharmacotherapy Network (HAPN) program.has partnered with St Vincent’s Hospital, Melbourne, to implement Project ECHO


Project ECHO is a new initiative to empower health professionals to treat, and increase workforce capacity around, opioid dependence.


“We started Project ECHO because although it’s urgently needed, people in regional and rural areas often can’t access treatment for opioid dependence,” says HAPN Spokesperson, Tim Griffiths.


“Out in these areas, we only have access to a limited number of addiction medicine specialists, even though the number of people affected continues to grow.”


“Project ECHO provides access to specialist knowledge from addiction specialists, psychiatrists, specialist nurses and social workers. With support from the other regional pharmacotherapy networks – ORTicare, Gippsland and Western Victoria – as well as the south eastern and north western metropolitan networks, we now have a truly statewide service offering specialist knowledge and support to all Victorian health practitioners.”


Project ECHO is the first of its kind in Australia and operates from a hub-and spoke knowledge-sharing model to give regional health clinicians access to addiction specialist support and advice.


Each week on a Wednesday morning, health professionals across Victoria can join a video-conferencing session led by the specialist team hub at St Vincent’s Hospital about a topic related to opioid dependence from the comfort of their own office or home.


“ECHO is a way of bringing specialist knowledge and support about opioid management to health professionals across Victoria who might not have worked in the area, or want to improve their skills,” says Mr Griffiths.


“We cover a range of topics from opioids and addiction in chronic pain management to more specific topics around the use of medication-assisted treatment of opioid dependence.


“We also have a case discussion component at each session and any participant can present cases from their own practice as well as ask questions and offer insights into any other case. Founding principles of Project ECHO are ‘All Teach, All Learn’ and ‘Move knowledge, not people’. Everyone can contribute, and everyone can learn”


To get Project ECHO up and running, a small team of delegates from participating organisations travelled to the US to learn from experts in the field.


“We encourage all GPs, nurses, pharmacists and other health professionals to take advantage of this free service. They simply need to register via our website at, then follow simple instructions to connect to a virtual clinic session,” says Mr. Griffiths.


ScriptWise CEO Bee Mohamed says Project ECHO is an important example of how collaboration can help those with opioid dependence get essential treatment.


“Medication Dependence Prevention Month is about raising awareness about this issue and highlighting the work local organisations are doing to address it across the country,” says Ms Mohamed.


“The stigma around medication dependence can make people feel like they’re alone and as if they’re the only person who feels like they more and more medication to get the same effect.”


“Initiatives like this help to ensure that all community members can have the opportunity to start a conversation with their local services about any of their concerns and about accessing effective treatment for ongoing pain problems.”




For further information, high-resolution images, or interviews, please contact Lara Beissbarth m: 0425 872 744 /


No Comments

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.