Hackensack University Medical Center Orthopedic Surgeon Leads Fight Against Opioid Dependency

Michael Kelly, M.D., battles opioid epidemic with community education, post-surgery prescription protocols and cross-institution coordination

More than 3,000 New Jersey residents died of opioid overdoses in 2019. For many, the addiction links back to initial pain-control medication following surgery. As an orthopedic surgeon, Michael Kelly, M.D., felt a personal responsibility to help address the opioid epidemic at its root.

Also Chairman of Hackensack University Medical Center’s Department of Orthopedic Surgery, Dr. Kelly has implemented safety initiatives to prevent addiction to opioids following orthopedic procedures. In 2015, Hackensack University Medical Center implemented Enhanced Recovery After Surgery (ERAS) protocols, which included minimizing the use of opioid medications before, during and after surgery. Health care providers began replacing intravenous opioids with multimodal pain management that provides for two or more pain control methods, such as local anesthetics, anti-inflammatory medications, or nerve blocks.

Opioid Abuse

Dr. Kelly also credits the use of minimally invasive and robotic surgical techniques, which are performed through smaller incisions for reduced pain and shorter healing time, as instrumental in reducing opioid use. Initiatives designed to ensure that patients are as healthy as possible before surgery also have helped reduce complication rates and lowered the need for opioid medications.

Hackensack Meridian Health also joined a state-run database of prescription records giving coordinated access to prescription records to help identify potential substance abuse by individuals across health care institutions.

In the community, Dr. Kelly is battling the opioid epidemic through education. With Lakeland Bank, Hackensack Meridian Health is sponsoring opioid education for teenagers in collaboration with the FBI-Newark Division, FBI Newark Citizens Academy Alumni Association and bergenPAC. In 2019, the program was presented to New Jersey middle and high school students.

“On behalf of Hackensack Meridian Health, I am very pleased that we are expanding our program to educate our youth on the dangers of opioids,” said Dr. Kelly. “Last year, the students who participated were very engaged and attentive to the information we presented. It’s incredibly important to educate students, especially at a younger age, on the dangers of these highly addictive drugs. If we can save one life, it’s worth it.”

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the program adapted to a virtual format.

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