790 Arizonans died of opioid overdoses last year. That’s an average of more than two people every day and the numbers continue to grow – up 74 percent from just four years ago. Governor Doug Ducey has seen enough…..he declared a state of emergency yesterday to battle the opioid epidemic in our state.
The declaration will soon require hospitals, doctors and other health providers to more frequently update state health officials on overdose deaths and opioid-related encounters.
It also is designed to expand distribution of the overdose-reversal drug naloxone to law enforcement statewide, particularly in communities with clusters of overdose deaths or near-deaths.
The action also aims to develop new guidelines for prescribing opioids and expand access to medication-assisted drug treatment.
According to Tucson.com, the governor’s health policy advisor, Christina Corieri, said “doctors prescribed — and pharmacies ordered and dispensed — more than 431 million opioid pills in Arizona last year. That’s more than 60 pills a year for every man, woman and child in the state.”
Some states are pointing the finger at drug companies for this growing problem. ABC 15 in Phoenix wrote:
Last week, Ohio’s attorney general sued five drugmakers, accusing the companies of causing the state’s addiction epidemic by intentionally misleading patients about the dangers of painkillers and promoting benefits of the drugs not backed by science….(Ohio) Attorney General Mike DeWine said the companies created a deadly mess in Ohio that they now need to pay to clean up.
(Gov. Doug) Ducey’s spokesman said his staff is reviewing the Ohio lawsuit and might consider similar action.
Arizona Hospital and Healthcare Association (AzHHA) President & CEO Greg Vigdor sees the Governor’s state of emergency declaration as a huge step forward in the fight against the opioid epidemic. Vigdor also highlighted some of the incredible work being done by AzHHA members. “Many of our members have developed their own local programs to reduce the abuse that can be affected through their interventions, and we welcome state action that can help advance these efforts,” he said.
A great example is the work being done at Community Bridges in Mesa. Below is a short video clip of an interview we recently did with the organization’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Michel Sucher, regarding an innovative program called “Unscript.” Click here or on the picture below to watch it.
As for what’s next – KTAR News pointed out that within the next week the Arizona Department of Health Services will make recommendations to Governor Ducey. “The governor can use those to initiate emergency rules for prescribing opioids and to enhance surveillance for improved health data.”
We’d love to hear your thoughts on what’s being done to battle the opioid epidemic in our state and how you think we can get the upper hand in this fight. Working together with our partners and members to find new solutions to this growing problem is another way we are working toward our long-term goal of one day making Arizona the Healthiest State in the Nation!