AP NEWS

Nurse practitioner helps opioid addicts in North Dakota town

December 27, 2019 GMT

GLEN ULLIN, N.D. (AP) — A family nurse practitioner based in a small North Dakota town is providing medical treatment for people with opioid dependence who are unable to commute to Bismarck.

Since March, Rhonda Schmidt has treated about a half dozen patients from Beach, the Dickinson and Killdeer areas, and Grant and Morton counties, according to the Bismarck Tribune. The Glen Ullin Family Medical Clinic where Schmidt works is about an hour’s drive west of Bismarck.

Glen Ullin has a population of 713.

“It’s not something I guess I’d ever thought about doing, but it’s a challenging but rewarding type of a service,” Schmidt said.

Elgin-based Jacobson Memorial Hospital Care Center, which operates the Glen Ullin clinic, also offers medication-assisted treatment at the Richardton Clinic in Stark County.

Schmidt worked in the Richardson Clinic before moving to Glen Ullin in October 2018. At Richardson, she was researching pain management and noticed a trend.

“I realized that a lot of these people are not using the medication for managing their pain — it’s an addition,” said Schmidt, a Glen Ullin native. “And I was hoping then by treating the pain management, I could also try to help those that were addicted to it and would benefit from the Suboxone.”

Suboxone, a prescription drug, helps curb opioid cravings.

Opioids were involved in about 67% of the more than 70,000 drug overdose deaths nationwide in 2017, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. North Dakota had 68 drug overdose deaths in 2017, down from 77 in 2016, the newspaper reported.

Patients must be in withdrawal to receive treatment. They meet with Schmidt every two or three days for about a week until they reach a maintenance period, she said. Suboxone contains buprenorphine and Schmidt is one of only about 120 people in North Dakota who can prescribe it. In Morton County, where Glen Ullin is located, she is the only one who can prescribe it, according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s Omaha Division.

Schmidt said she has seen about 90% success in her patients.

Other rural buprenorphine prescribers in North Dakota are located in Beulah, Cando and Carrington.

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This story has been updated to correct that Schmidt is a family nurse practitioner, not a family nurse.