Rebecca O’Brien of the Bergen Record was a finalist for a 2014 Pulitzer Prize in journalism for her reporting on the heroin crisis in NJ. Her most recent article details how New Jersey’s plans pale in comparison to Vermont’s efforts.
I’m quoted in the article several times, and the line that most brings me down is this: “I think we will be a middle-of-the pack state” in regards to our drug policies.
This is an excellent report that you may have missed from the end of 2013. It details what each state is doing, makes a number of findings and issues several recommendations.
(everything below is taken verbatim from the website)
Some key findings from the report include:
- Appalachia and Southwest Have the Highest Overdose Death Rates: West Virginia had the highest number of drug overdose deaths, at 28.9 per every 100,000 people – a 605 percent increase from 1999, when the rate was only 4.1 per every 100,000. North Dakota had the lowest rate at 3.4 per every 100,000 people. Rates are lowest in the Midwestern states.
- Rescue Drug Laws: Just over one-third of states (17 and Washington, D.C.) have a law in place to expand access to, and use of naloxone – a prescription drug that can be effective in counteracting an overdose – by lay administrators.
- Good Samaritan Laws: Just over one-third of states (17 and Washington, D.C.) have laws in place to provide a degree of immunity from criminal charges or mitigation of sentencing for individuals seeking to help themselves or others experiencing an overdose.
- Medical Provider Education Laws: Fewer than half of states (22) have laws that require or recommend education for doctor and other healthcare providers who prescribe prescription pain medication.
- Support for Substance Abuse Treatment: Nearly half of states (24 and Washington, D.C.) are participating in Medicaid Expansion – which helps expand coverage of substance abuse services and treatment.
- ID Requirement: 32 states have a law requiring or permitting a pharmacist to require an ID prior to dispensing a controlled substance.
- Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs: While nearly every state (49) has a Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP) to help identify “doctor shoppers,” problem prescribers and individuals in need of treatment, these programs vary dramatically in funding, use and capabilities. For instance, only 16 states require medical providers to use PMDPs.
Key recommendations from the report include:
- Educate the public to understand the risks of prescription drug use to avoid misuse in the first place;
- Ensure responsible prescribing practices, including increasing education of healthcare providers and prescribers to better understand how medications can be misused and to identify patients in need of treatment;
- Increase understanding about safe storage of medication and proper disposal of unused medications, such as through “take back” programs;
- Make sure patients do receive the pain and other medications they need, and that patients have access to safe and effective drugs;
- Improve, modernize and fully-fund Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs, so they are real-time, interstate and incorporated into Electronic Health Records, to quickly identify patients in need of treatment and connect them with appropriate care and identify doctor shoppers and problem prescribers;
- Make rescue medications more widely available by increasing access for at-risk individuals to naloxone and provide immunity for individuals and others seeking help; and
- Expand access to and availability of effective treatment options as a key component of any strategy to combat prescription drug abuse.