Current Suspected Overdose Deaths in Delaware for 2018: 241 logo

DHSS Press Release

Rita Landgraf, Secretary
Jill Fredel, Director of Communications
302-255-9047, Pager 302-357-7498

Date: September 6, 2013


WILMINGTON (Sept. 5, 2013) - Chronic pain is a common health and quality of life issue. Physicians and patients must balance the very real need for pain management with the necessity of preventing drug misuse and abuse. And, many primary care providers do not receive extensive training in pain management. Weekly videoconferencing sessions with health care providers across the country allow primary care providers from Westside Family Healthcare of Delaware to provide effective pain management care for their underserved patients.

"Through the use of innovative technology and a spirit of collaboration, Delaware providers are able to receive free continuing education through the Project Extension for Community Health Care Outcomes or Project ECHO," said Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS) Secretary Rita Landgraf. "Our involvement supports the Institute of Medicine's call for collaborative learning among health professionals, and increased utilization of emerging technologies' as we work toward a more accessible health care system for all Delawareans."

The telehealth initiative features case-based learning among a multidisciplinary team of specialists for chronic conditions such as pain management, Hepatitis C, HIV, hypertension, diabetes, dementia, and opioid addiction. The Project ECHO sessions are funded by DHSS and is a partnership with the Delaware Prescription Drug Action Committee (PDAC), and Delaware Telehealth Coalition. Westside Family Healthcare is participating as a Project ECHO site in partnership with the Community Health Centers, Inc., the Integrated Pain Center of Arizona, and other participating Federally Qualified Health Centers across the country.

Secretary Landgraf said DHSS will evaluate Project ECHO results in the summer of 2014. She said DHSS is partnering with the Delaware Telehealth Coalition to find ways to use telehealth for medical education, medical intervention, prevention, health care administrative tasks, and health advocacy. For example, since July of 2012, DHSS's Division of Medicaid and Medical Assistance began reimbursing providers for consulting services delivered via telehealth, and originating sites for telemedicine space and equipment.

Westside's initial focus is chronic pain management. Underserved patients suffering from chronic, debilitating pain face many treatment issues: not being able to access specialists due to insurance status, unreliable transportation, inefficient referral systems, and long wait times.

According to the Institute of Medicine, chronic pain affects 100 million American adults - more than the total affected by heart disease, cancer and diabetes combined. Pain costs the United States up to $635 billion annually in medical treatment and lost productivity.

"Project ECHO is an evidenced-based innovative approach to delivering high-quality and appropriate care for our patients with chronic pain," said Thomas Stephens, MD, Chief Medical Officer of Westside Family Healthcare. "We have seen this program increase our providers' knowledge and confidence in managing complex chronic pain in the primary care setting. We are thrilled to be working with the State of Delaware and Community Health Centers, Inc. on this important program. "

Added Dr. Gerard Galluci, DHSS Medical Director, "The goal of Project ECHO is to increase the competency of Delaware health providers to manage complex pain conditions. Pain management is an important area of focus for the health care community and the project also helps build our capacity to utilize innovative technology for new treatment options."

Delaware Division of Public Health (DPH) Director and PDAC Co-Chair Dr. Karyl T. Rattay praised Westside Family Healthcare for hosting the Project ECHO sessions. "Accidental drug poisoning deaths now kill more Delawareans than car crashes," Dr. Rattay said. "Eighty percent of Delaware's drug overdoses involve one or more prescription drugs. Project ECHO provides viable pain solutions as we wrestle with this epidemic.

Dr. Rattay highlighted several benefits to using Project ECHO:

Providers participate in Project ECHO sessions from a teleconferencing system, a personal computer, tablets or smartphones at sites with cellular and/or WiFi connectivity. After the specialty team makes a brief presentation, participating primary care providers discuss "de-identified, private" cases reviewed in advance. The specialty team asks clarifying questions, discusses the cases, and assists the providers in developing appropriate care plans. Participating providers also gain continuing education as they add to their chronic pain management skills.

For more information about participating in Westside's Project ECHO sessions, contact Sarah Noonan Davis, MPA, Deputy Director, at 302-656-8292, ext. 116 or

About Community Health Center, Inc. Since 1972, Community Health Center, Inc. has been one of the leading health care providers in the state of Connecticut, building a world-class primary health care system committed to caring for uninsured and underserved populations. CHC is focused on improving health outcomes for its more than 130,000 patients as well as building healthy communities. Recognized as both a Level 3 Patient-Centered Medical Home by the National Committee for Quality Assurance and a Primary Care Medical Home by The Joint Commission, CHC delivers service in more than 200 locations statewide, offering primary care in medical, dental and behavioral health services. For more information, visit

Westside Family Healthcare is a Joint Commission accredited Primary Care Medical Home (PCMH) certified non-profit community health system with locations currently in Wilmington, Northeast Wilmington, Newark, Bear/New Castle, Middletown, and Dover, providing care to 25,476 patients through 96,051 visits in 2012. Westside is the largest community health system in the state providing family medical, dental, OB-GYN, and behavioral health services, regardless of ability to pay. Thirty percent ($ 5,691,263) of Westside Family Healthcare's operating budget in 2012 was supported by funding from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA). Care is provided for all individuals, regardless of insurance status or ability to pay. For more information, please visit

Delaware Health and Social Services is committed to improving the quality of the lives of Delaware's citizens by promoting health and well-being, fostering self-sufficiency, and protecting vulnerable populations.