BREAKING: Arizona Takes On Opioids / by Joe Furia

AzHHA LOGO.png

Special Session is now in order.

Yesterday, Gov. Doug Ducey officially called the Arizona Legislature into Special Session to address a crisis responsible for more than 800 Arizona deaths since June alone.

It was standing-room only as a broad, bipartisan group of state legislators, local elected officials, public health leaders, law enforcement and first responders rallied around new legislation – the Arizona Opioid Epidemic Act – aimed at tackling one of the most significant and urgent public health threats facing Arizona and the nation.

As public health leaders on the front lines of this crisis, the Arizona Hospital and Healthcare Association and our members salute the Governor and legislative leadership for making the opioid fight a top priority this session.

 “The opioid epidemic is dramatically impacting Pima County residents, providers, acute care hospitals and law enforcement personnel. According to data from the Pima County Health Department, since 2008 there has been a nearly two-fold increase in the number of ED visits and inpatient hospital stays related to opioid misuse. In 2016, there were 263 overdose deaths in Pima County, up from 210 in 2011. The issue is critical because of the lives being lost and the broader costs to our communities. We applaud the Governor and the legislature for putting a spotlight and allocating resources to this epidemic.” – Tucson Medical Center

Community Bridges Inc. (CBI), one of Arizona’s largest statewide providers of medical and behavioral health care, sees first-hand the widespread impacts of opioid addiction. According to public information officer Stephanie Siete:

“The face of addiction has changed. It’s no longer this stereotypical homeless person on the side of the street. It could be the employed individual. You might see how someone’s performance at work is lacking because they’re dealing with a loved one. A spouse, or a kid, or someone else that is using and going through therapy. It’s just this ripple effect for everybody.”

At a time when meaningful, good-faith and truly bipartisan actions seem few and far between, it is encouraging to see Arizona leaders of all political stripes and professional backgrounds come together on an issue that transcends party lines and touches thousands of Arizona families every year.

The sweeping legislation introduced this week proposes a number of policy changes related to limiting the prescribing and dispensing of opioids; curtailing the illicit acquisition of drugs with the high potential for misuse and abuse; and improving and expanding access to treatment, especially among underserved populations.

A detailed overview of the plan can be viewed HERE.

The opioid epidemic affects all of us – and that means we all have a role to play in tackling it head-on. The Arizona Hospital and Healthcare Association will continue to be a vital and vocal partner in this crucial fight.