Let’s Talk: Opioid Misuse Prevention

Most of us now realize the devastating impact the opioid crisis is having on our state. But did you know we are making great strides to help those Arizonans who continue to struggle with this ongoing epidemic? To that end, tomorrow is National Opioid Misuse Prevention Day, so today we wanted to raise awareness and share what organizations across the state are doing to in this fight.

According to The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, in 2016 opioids killed more than 42,000 people – that is about 116 people a day. Forty percent of those deaths involved a prescription of an opioid. In Arizona alone, as of June 2017, there have been 1,645 deaths that are suspected to be opioid related.  The Arizona Department of Health Services offers real-time opioid data and resources on their website.

Legislation passed earlier this year included funds for grants to jump start immediate action across the state. In hospitals such as Little Colorado Medical Center, a critical access hospital in Winslow, Arizona, have been able to provide resources not only to their staff and their community members. They have provided training for local EMS, law enforcement and their staff to increase their skills they need to recognize and treat an overdose. In addition, Little Colorado Medical Center has been able to provide Narcan kits and training to patients and their families.

In similar efforts just 45 miles away in Springerville, White Mountain Regional Medical Center (WMRMC)is making a difference in their community with the generous support of the AzFlex Supplemental Grant. WMRMC has used the grant to provide education to both community members and healthcare providers. In a broader approach, and in collaboration with The Apache County Drug Free Alliance and other stakeholders, WMRMC launched several campaigns including poster, social media, billboard, and alongside the education opportunities. But their efforts do not end there.  This October WMRMC will host the award-winning Reality Tour Drug Prevention Program, and a one-hour community education event to continue combatting the opioid crisis.

Every part of the healthcare industry is aware that it will require an “all hands-on-deck” approach in addressing the opioid crisis.  Just recently Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona announced that it would be investing $10 million in an initiative to help reduce the misuse of opioids across the state. The American Hospital Association has created resources with the CDC to provide guidance to hospitals and health systems in order to foster effective conversations between patients and physicians about opioids.

Whether it is in a small rural community or in a large urban city, steps are being taken and lives are being saved. Events like the upcoming Opioid Misuse Prevention Symposium in southern Arizona are focused are bringing organizations together and channeling efforts to address the opioid epidemic.  Resources are becoming available, but more work will need to be done. What needs do you see in your community? What resources do you think would be helpful in addressing the opioid crisis in Arizona? Generating meaningful conversations around the health issues affecting the people of our state is another way we are working toward our long-term goal of one day making Arizona the Healthiest State in the Nation!

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