The Opioid Crisis: A Discussion with Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper and Mark Masselli of Community Health Center

The Opioid Crisis: A Discussion with Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper and Mark Masselli of Community Health Center

Beside Opioids, Mark Masselli Also Spoke with Governor John Hickenlooper About Legalized Marijuana, and Presidential Interest

Mark Masselli of the Community Health Center and Margaret Flinter had a conversation with Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper on CHC Radio.

Key to the discussion is how to combat the opioid crisis in Colorado–and elsewhere, as Mark Masselli pointed out. John Governor’s Hickenlooper’s lead other governors to sign a compact aimed at fighting addiction recently.

Of his initiative, Hickenlooper said, “Colorado has made important strides to combat the prescription drug misuse and abuse that affects a significant percentage of Coloradans across the state”.

Mark Masselli and the Governor highlighted some solutions to fighting opioids:

  • Help to create recovery paths for those addicted.
  • Lower inappropriate prescribing of opioids to patients.
  • Look at how to change addiction and opioids.

In 2014, Colorado tried to determine new ways to help individuals in communities that are particularly hard hit by opioid drug abuse. Governor Hickenlooper launched a public awareness campaign “Take Meds Seriously” to address this problem. “We have more to do. I look forward to continuing this work with my fellow governors on a national level,” said Hickenlooper.

A critical part of this public health problem is finding a solution to get rid of opioid prescription medications. The Take-Back Program is an approach initiated by the Colorado state health department. “The governor’s support of this national compact underscores our Colorado priorities of improving the education about, treatment of and recovery from opioid addiction.”

Some other healthcare topics discussed with Mark Masselli and Governor John Hickenlooper were the recent expansion with included additional coverage under the Affordable Care Act.

This lead to further crucial access to additional healthcare in Colorado. Part of this initiate where behavioral health and primary care–both of which improve outcomes for patients. “Prescriptive and illicit opioid abuse are significant public health concerns in Colorado,” said Dr. Larry Wolk, executive director at Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

With Governor Kasich of Ohio, both political parties looked for improved federal level including funding for CHIP, Community Health Centers and expanded coverage.

Governor Hickenlooper with Mark Masselli also looked at lessons learned from the legalization marijuana, and the bipartisan campaign to promote better health policies. Listen to the discussion between Mark Masselli Margaret Flinter had a conversation John Hickenlooper on CHC Radio here.


Community Health Center Participates in Genetic and Lifestyle Study, which Includes National Institutes of Health and Columbia University

Community Health Center Was Chosen to Participate in a Major Genetic and Lifestyle Study

Community Health Center Was Chosen to Participate in a Major Genetic and Lifestyle Study

CHC part of Precision Medicine Cohort

Other Participants Include National Institutes of Health, Columbia University,  Northwestern University; the University of Arizona; and the University of Pittsburgh

Care to be part of “precision medicine cohort“? It sounds like an undercover super-secret operation, but really, it’s scientists searching for a million volunteers willing to take part in a 10-year research project looking into causes and cures of disease.

Mark Masselli thinks it’s a good idea: “There are a lot of enticing reasons to participate.” Volunteers will share how old they are, their race, their income, education, sexual orientation and gender as well as give an in depth review of their medical history, blood and DNA.  The Community Health Center is one of half-dozen clinics chosen by the National Institutes of Health; other hospitals and community health centers will invite patients to participate.

The project began as part of President Obama’s Precision Medicine Initiative where medical treatment is individually tailored to the individual patients. Joining  is easy: participants can sign up by computer, smartphone, or land-line telephone. The project is being orchestrated by Dr. Francis S. Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, who previously led the government’s successful effort to map the human genome.

Data collection comes from a variety of sources. They include online forms, in-person exams, existing health records, Fitbit, smartphone apps and wearable sensors, making it easy to record blood pressure, heart rate and other vital signs.

The scale of the project “precision medicine cohort” dwarfs nearly almost all other health research studies in the U.S.  By comparison, the Framingham Heart Study, which produced valuable insights on heart disease, followed only about 15,500 people.

NIH researchers want partners, not just patients, viewing them not just as “human subjects.” Later, patients can access to all the information about themselves, such as lab and genetic test results. Doctors could then use the information to customize treatment at a granular level for patient. Unusually, volunteers can help guide the research by sitting on steering committee and advisory boards.

Congress in December 2016 provided funding to the NIH for the million-person study and bipartisan support suggests the project will continue.

Other medical partners include the Mayo Clinic has created a huge databank to collect, analyze and store 35 million samples of blood, and DNA. Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, operates a data center storing information. Some data will be made available, without personal identifiers, to researchers and “citizen scientists.”

Diversity is key: participants will be recruited to reflect geographic, racial, ethnic and socioeconomic variations of the country. Community health centers, such as CHC where Mark Masselli is President and Co-founder, are targeted because almost all patients earn much less than the poverty level, and about one-third of health center volunteers are Latinos and approximately 25% are African-American.

Where to sign up? Academic medical centers at Columbia University, collaborating with NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, Harlem Hospital and Weill Cornell Medicine; Northwestern University in Illinois; the University of Arizona; and the University of Pittsburgh, each of which is working with local partners.

But there is much more to it than statistics and lab work. “Perched on your shoulders will be the best and brightest researchers, working on your behalf,” says Mark Masslli.