DES MOINES, Iowa (KCAU) — Two area hospitals are among four participating in a program sponsored by the Iowa Attorney General’s office to reduce opioid use.

Cherokee Regional Medical Center in Cherokee and Floyd Valley Healthcare in Le Mars, along with two other hospitals in the state, are hoping to make good use of opioid settlement money to help abate the opioid addiction crisis and prevent future addiction through participation in the Billion Pill Pledge Program. The goal of the program is to decrease the number of pills on the street in the United States by a billion each year, thereby avoiding the possibility of them being used by those for whom the prescription was unintended.

“We are grateful to have these hospitals join us in this important work,” said Attorney General Tom Miller.

The program will have surgery patients receive a care package from Iowa City-based Goldfinch Health designed to prevent opioid addiction before it begins. A nurse will work with surgery patients to support them before their surgery and during their recovery and hopes of minimizing the use of opioids around surgery.

Surgery has long been considered a gateway into the long-term use of opioids and thus dependents. Studies show that as many as 9% of surgery patients who never used opioid prescriptions before their surgery become long-term users of opioids after being legally prescribed opioids after surgery.

“Opioid challenges are not just patient challenges. They are community challenges. The billion pill pledge program will help us better serve our community,” said Gary Jordan CEO/President of Cherokee Regional.

The billion pill program is a nationwide program and the initial phase of Iowa funding will go to 10 rural hospitals. Miller is using the money from a settlement with consultant McKinsey and Co to support the billion pledge program. Additional hospitals will be announced but a press release gave no timeline on when those announcements would be made.