Arizona lobbyist explains efforts to regulate doctors in opioid epidemic

Jun 19, 2019, 9:50 AM | Updated: Jun 20, 2019, 7:30 am

PHOENIX — Two Arizonans die every day from an opioid overdose, according to the Arizona Department of Health Services.

In 2017, Gov. Doug Ducey issued an emergency declaration to begin combating the crisis.

Since then, the state has passed several laws to help prevent opioid addiction and aid those already struggling with opioid dependency.

Pete Wertheim has been on the forefront of this legislative battle.

He is the executive director of the Arizona Osteopathic Medical Association. He’s effectively worked as a lobbyist to regulate and support the role physicians play in the opioid epidemic.

According to AZDHS, 431 million opioid pills were prescribed in 2016 — enough for every Arizonan to have a two-week supply.

That’s why Wertheim said they introduced legislation to limit the prescriptions.

“I think the limit on initial fills of 5 days for opioid-naive patients, patients who have not received an opioid in the previous 60 days, has really helped change quite a bit,” he said.

Wertheim said the Opioid Epidemic Act also expanded existing services, created more provisions for physicians and developed good Samaritan laws to help those currently suffering from addiction.

The state even developed the nation’s first 24-hour opioid assistance referral line.

Wertheim said that because of this, opioid prescriptions in the state are down by 21%. However, opioid overdoses and deaths continue to rise.

“A lot of that activity has moved to the streets,” he said. “So we need to continue to focus the interventions in the medical settings, but we really need to look at the culture of addiction.”

Wertheim said that’s where other agencies and entities, like law enforcement, begin to play a role.

He said one of the most effective ways Arizona has combated this crisis is by distributing the life-saving opioid reversal drug Naloxone.

Wertheim said the city distributed nearly 50,000 Naloxone kits to first responders and about 13,000 of them have been administered.

He said that one of the most prominent ways Arizona has begun to change the course of the opioid epidemic is by changing the stigma.

“We’ve really changed the narrative around addiction,” he said. “These people are not the evil outliers out there. Compassion is really what we’re seeing and this is really what we need to end this epidemic.”

Tune in to KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Bruce St. James & Pamela Hughes Show each day this week at 10 a.m. for special coverage of Arizona’s opioid epidemic.

To reach the Arizona Opioid Assistance and Referral Line, call 1-888-688-4222, or visit the website for more information.

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Pass it along to the KTAR News team here.

Arizona News

(Screenshot/ADOT Webcam)...

2 die in wrong-way crash on southbound Loop 303 in West Valley early Friday

Two people died in a wrong-way crash that shut down part of Loop 303 in the northwest Valley early Friday.
6 hours ago
(ASU Screenshot)...
Taylor Tasler

ASU professor, students build air filters to help keep kids safe from COVID-19 while in class

Infectious Disease Epidemiologist Meghan Jehn and students from Arizona State University are building DIY Corsi-Rosenthal boxes, which can filter out air particles that can carry viruses like COVID-19.
6 hours ago
(File Photo by Mario Villafuerte/Getty Images)...
Griselda Zetino

Report points to why Arizona Latino students have been falling behind academically

A new report shines a light on factors that for decades have been causing Latino students in Arizona to lag behind many of their peers.
6 hours ago
(Facebook Photo/Tempe Marketplace, Facebook Photo/Arizona Balloon Classic, Pexels Photo)...

Weekend guide: Here are the biggest events around the Valley for Jan. 28-30

Among the things for people to do in metro Phoenix this weekend are the continuation of the Barrett-Jackson Collector Car Auction, two dog-themed events and the 11th Annual Arizona Balloon Classic.
6 hours ago
(ADOT Flickr File Photo)...

Westbound I-10 closure near Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport to jam up weekend drivers

Valley drivers will be hindered by a 5-mile closure on westbound Interstate 10 near Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport this weekend as part of the Broadway Curve Improvement Project.
6 hours ago
(Facebook File Photo/Old Town Scottsdale)...

Scottsdale to celebrate Western history with weeklong series of activities, events

Scottsdale will celebrate the city's rich Western history with a weeklong series of activities and events starting Saturday.
6 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

GLENDALE, AZ - DECEMBER 27: Wide receivers John Brown #12 and Larry Fitzgerald #11 of the Arizona C...
Arizona Department of Gaming

The most memorable games in Arizona sports history every fan needs to know

Sports teams in Arizona have seen their fair share of instant classic games, but there's a few that every fan needs to know.
Canvas Annuity

Annuity basics: how to retire with a guaranteed paycheck for life

Does the thought of retirement fill you with stress or with happiness? Everyone wants to spend their retirement in a way that brings them the most joy, whether that’s traveling the world or spending extra time at home with grandkids.
(Facebook Photo/NHTSA)...
Sweet James

Upcoming holiday season is peak time for DUI arrests

The holiday season may be the most wonderful time of the year, but it’s also the most dangerous time of the year to be driving. That’s why it’s important to remember to call Sweet James Accident Attorneys if you’re injured or arrested because of a DUI accident.
Arizona lobbyist explains efforts to regulate doctors in opioid epidemic