Wellness in brief: HCA hosting opioid takeback events on Oct. 23

CRUSH IT: HCA Healthcare’s Crush the Crisis events take place on National Prescription Drug Take Back Day, Saturday, Oct. 23. The event is sponsored by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. Photo by iStock

Members of the public can anonymously dispose of unused or expired opioid medications at HCA Healthcare’s Crush the Crisis events at various locations. Local law enforcement agencies are partnering with HCA Healthcare for the takeback event on Saturday, Oct. 23.

The drop-off locations are Mission Hospital in Asheville, 1 Hospital Drive, 10 a.m.-2 p.m.; Mission Hospital McDowell in Marion, 430 Rankin Drive, 10 a.m.-noon; Angel Medical Center in Franklin, 120 Riverview St., 9 a.m.-noon;  Highlands-Cashiers Hospital in Highlands, 190 Hospital Drive, 9 a.m.-noon; and Blue Ridge Regional Hospital in Spruce Pine, 125 Hospital Drive, 10 a.m.-noon.

HCA Healthcare’s Crush the Crisis events take place on National Prescription Drug Take Back Day, which is sponsored by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.

Any medications will be accepted at the takeback events, but the focus is on opioids: tablets, capsules and patches of hydrocodone (Lortab, Norco, Vicodin); oxycodone (Oxycontin, Percocet); tramadol (Ultram); codeine; fentanyl (Duragesic); morphine; hydromorphone (Dilaudid); and Oxymorphone (Opana). Inhalers, liquids, lancets, needles and syringes will not be accepted.

For more information, call 833-582-1970.

Pardee adjusts monoclonal infusions policy

In response to high demand and limited supply, Pardee UNC Health Care has adjusted its eligibility criteria for monoclonal antibody infusions. As of  Oct. 7, Pardee will only offer treatment to referred COVID-positive patients who are within five days of onset of their symptoms; previously, the clinic accepted patients within 10 days of onset.

Pardee will also provide both REGEN-COV and bamlanivimab and etesevimab (BAM/ETE) combination monoclonal antibody infusions. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has not approved REGEN-COV and BAM/ETE for treatment of COVID-19, but both drugs have received emergency use authorization from the FDA.

“What we’re facing at the moment is a supply issue that simply cannot match the demand for this highly effective treatment,” said Carol Stefaniak, chief nursing officer for Pardee, in a statement. “With the distribution of REGEN-CoV now being managed at the state and federal level, we’re experiencing a reduction in supply. Thankfully, we have adequate supply of BAM/ETE in stock and anticipate receiving additional doses in the near future.”

From February to August, Pardee provided monoclonal antibody infusions through a clinic in its emergency department. But in August, to meet the increasing demand, Pardee relocated the clinic to an outpatient facility in Hendersonville. Thus far, Pardee has administered a total of 1,200 infusions, with 800 of those provided since the relocation on Aug. 11. Among patients receiving an infusion in Pardee’s clinic, 1.2% required hospitalization, Stefaniak told Xpress. There have been no deaths, she noted.

A monoclonal antibody infusion takes 20 minutes but requires a one-hour observation period afterward. To be scheduled for an infusion, patients must be at high risk for developing severe COVID-19, have a positive COVID-19 test and a referral from a Pardee Urgent Care or primary care provider. Monoclonal antibody infusions are available at no cost to eligible patients.

For more information, call 828-694-8222.

Dogwood Health Trust funds Student Health Ambassador Program

A $486,524 grant from Dogwood Health Trust is funding a Student Health Ambassador Program at six area colleges for 2021-22. UNCA Asheville is leading the initiative in partnership with Mountain Area Health Education Center. The other colleges are Brevard College, Mars Hill University, Montreat College, Warren Wilson College and Western Carolina University.

The grant will employ nearly 50 SHAs who will receive training and provide peer-to-peer public health education to classmates. Last year, a grant to the N.C. Policy Collaboratory at UNC Chapel Hill funded the initiative’s 2020 pilot effort to address the COVID-19 pandemic at the same six schools.

UNCA senior Nora Maybury says students receiving COVID-19 health and safety recommendations from SHAs like her can feel less “condescending.” SHAs are expected to lead by example, such as wearing masks on campus, rather than calling out students who didn’t follow guidelines, she said.

Last year, SHAs hosted tables on campus to hand out masks and hand sanitizer, filmed YouTube videos about COVID-19 safety and quarantine health and volunteered with vaccine distribution. The program liaises with UNCA’s mental health services as well. In April, Maybury moderated a UNCA webinar with Elizabeth McCorvey, a counselor from UNCA, and other experts about grieving during the pandemic and dealing with ongoing loss.

WNCAP volunteers needed

Western North Carolina AIDS Project is seeking volunteers for food-box distribution across Western North Carolina. Volunteers distribute food as well as personal care items to isolated individuals living with AIDS.

The greatest need for volunteer shifts is on the second and fourth Thursdays of every month, as well as Fridays and Saturdays from 10 a.m.-noon. Interested volunteers must have a dependable car and be able to carry a 50-pound box for short distances.

For more information, visit wncap.org.

News notes

  • Free COVID-19 vaccines are available from a Federal Emergency Management Agency mobile vaccine unit at Asheville Outlets, 800 Brevard Road. The effort is part of a partnership between the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services and Mountain Area Health Education Center. The Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines are available. First and second doses, and booster vaccines, will be provided. FEMA’s mobile vaccine unit is open Monday-Wednesday, Oct. 25-27, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Monday-Saturday, Nov. 1-6, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.; and Monday-Saturday, Nov. 8-13, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. No appointment is necessary.
  • Mission Health has joined Alignment Healthcare’s provider network. Alignment is a California-based company contracted to operate Medicaid Advantage health insurance plans. Beginning Jan. 1, Medicaid-eligible seniors in Buncombe, Henderson, Madison, McDowell, Avery, Mitchell and Transylvania counties may enroll in Alignment’s HMO and PPO plans and access Mission Health providers.
  • Advanced practice registered nurse Kamila Fiore at Great Smokies Medical Center in Asheville is joining Forum Health, a national  network of functional and integrative care providers. Fiore has been employed at GSMC for 14 years. For more information, visit www.gsmcweb.com/.

Save the dates

  • The Hearing Loss Association of America Asheville chapter is hosting a virtual info session about tinnitus Tuesday, Oct. 26, at 6:30 p.m. Marc A. Fagelson, professor of audiology at East Tennessee State University, will speak on Zoom. More information, visit avl.mx/amz or email hlasheville@gmail.com.
  • Our VOICE, a nonprofit centered on survivors of sexual violence, will hold a learning series each Monday through November from 12:30-2 p.m. Counselors and other Our VOICE staff will discuss trauma responses on Zoom. For more information, contact Wendy at counselingintern@ourvoice.org or 252-0562 ext. 115.
  • The National Alliance on Mental Illness Western Carolina will hold its annual meeting on Thursday, Dec. 9, at 6 p.m. The guest speaker will be Dylan Simosko, N.C. Medicaid ombudsman program director for Pisgah Legal Services. For more information, visit www.namiwnc.org.

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About Jessica Wakeman
Jessica Wakeman is an Asheville-based reporter for Mountain Xpress. She has been published in Rolling Stone, Glamour, New York magazine's The Cut, Bustle and many other publications. She was raised in Connecticut and holds a Bachelor's degree in journalism from New York University. Follow me @jessicawakeman

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