PATERSON - St. Joseph’s Regional Medical Center in Paterson has spent the last six months conducting a new program where the hospital cuts down on the amount of opioids doctors prescribe.

The hospital became the first in the nation to introduce an Alternatives to Opiates or ALTO program this past January in the hospital’s emergency department.

Initially the goal was aimed to manage acute pain without any opioid medication, but over the course of the last six months doctors have realized that doing away with opioids completely may not be the best answer.

Instead, doctors are using opioid medications in severe cases and using alternatives in other cases. The doctors say that they are also taking more time to pinpoint the source of a patient’s pain for treatment.

“The goal was to prevent the use of all opioid, but if someone comes in with a broken bone, like that long bone in the thigh, that person needs something strong,” says Dr. Mark Rosenberg, chairman of emergency medicine.

Dr. Rosenberg says that now there is a host of medications to choose from that won’t put the patient at risk for dependency.

Several other New Jersey hospitals are training to participate in the ALTO program. The program has also been adopted internationally.