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Statistics suggest Arizona making progress in combating opioid crisis

(Pixabay Photo)

PHOENIX — The latest numbers suggest Arizona is making progress against its opioid crisis.

The annual Arizona Opioid Emergency Response Report was issued Friday.

Dr. Cara Christ, head of the state’s Department of Health Services, said Monday the number of post-overdose referrals to behavioral health or substance abuse treatment services increased from 45 percent in June 2017 to 73 percent in May 2018.

In addition, Christ said, the number of opioid prescriptions filled declined 40 percent between June 2017 and June 2018. The number of opioid pills dispensed decreased 43 percent between June 2017 and June 2018.

On the other hand, “While we did see an increase in the number of deaths in 2017, we did expect that based on trends nationwide,” Christ said.

The number of people on the “4 & 4” report has gone down, too. The report lists people who, in a given month, got controlled medications from four different doctors and four different pharmacies. Christ said there has been a 62 percent decline in the number of patients on this report – 99 in July 2017 to 38 in June 2018.

The Board of Pharmacy alerts any prescriber with a patient on the report about the behavior.

“In fact, it’s done so well, I hear the Board of Pharmacy is going to switch to a ‘3 & 3’ report,” Christ said.

There’s also an opioid assistance and referral line for Arizona providers. The hotline is free for health care clinicians who need help or advice on patients with complex pain or opioid use disorder. The line also provides consultations for high dosages.

Future initiatives to combat the state’s opioid crisis include schooling the public about alternative pain management methods; licensing of pain management clinics, starting in 2019; expanding the referral line to provide information to the public; and having health professional schools begin implementing components of a pain and addiction curriculum.

The Department of Health Services, meanwhile, will continue to monitor opioid surveillance data.

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