Arizona Healthcare Financial Management Association (AZHFMA)

Gov. Ducey signs legislation to crack down on opioid abuse

Today, Gov. Doug Ducey signed the Arizona Opioid Epidemic Act into law — a step toward cracking down on the state's growing opioid epidemic.

The Arizona legislative special session will give the Arizona Department of Health Services and other public health stakeholders tools to combat the problem.

“We began this week by coming together and recognizing the need to address the Opioid Epidemic,” Ducey said in a prepared statement. “Today we’ve done just that. I am proud to have signed the most comprehensive and thoughtful package any state has passed to address this crisis to date. Without the tireless efforts of legislative leadership and legislators from both parties, this rare achievement could not happen, and I thank everyone who has worked to get us here today.”

Among the provisions contained in the approved legislation are:

• A five-day limit on the first filling of a prescription, to reduce the high numbers of pills being prescribed.

• A dosage limit of less than 90 MME (morphine milligram equivalent) to mitigate the possibility of prescribing unnecessarily high doses.

• Regulatory oversight by the Arizona Department of Health Services on pain management clinics to ensure such prescriptions are provided only when necessary and to avoid patients getting multiple prescriptions. Also includes enforcement mechanisms.

• A "Good Samaritan" law to allow people to call 9-1-1 to report a potential opioid overdose because some people are reluctant to report an overdose victim for fear of prosecution.

• Three hours of education on the risks associated with opioids for all professions that prescribe them.

• A delayed effective date on electronic prescriptions to address the problem of easily forged paper prescriptions.

• A red prescription container cap to easily identify a prescribed opioid to reinforce the fact that opioids have risks that must be considered before taking them.

Dr. Cara Christ, director of the state health department, said the Arizona Opioid Epidemic Act has meaningful solutions to many of the issues that contribute to the opioid crisis.

"I want to thank Gov. Doug Ducey and the state legislature for taking decisive action and passing the Arizona Opioid Epidemic Act," she said. "Gov. Ducey and lawmakers have proven their commitment to bold initiatives that can help people suffering from opioid use disorder, and this is a great encouragement to public health professionals throughout Arizona. Losing a loved one to an opioid overdose is a tragedy that far too many Arizona families experience, and I'm grateful to see specific actions taken to provide the health care and public health systems with more tools to deal with this problem."

Greg Vigdor, president and CEO of the Arizona Hospital and Healthcare Association, said the opioid epidemic touches every corner of Arizona and families across the state - especially Arizona hospitals and health care providers.

"The governor's action today to sign the Arizona Opioid Epidemic Act into law is a great step, but our work is not done. Continued diligence is necessary," Vigdor said. "On behalf of the Arizona Hospital and Healthcare Association, we pledge our ongoing commitment to the effort to reduce opioid dependency and misuse in Arizona."

Angela Gonzales, Senior Reporter, Phoenix Business Journal, 1/26/18.