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Governor: 3 Big Things We're Doing to Stop Opioid Addiction

August 8, 2017

-hundred and ninety.

That’s how many people died from opioid overdoses in 2016. Not nationwide — that’s just in Arizona.

Moms. Dads. Husbands. Wives. Taken too soon because of a growing crisis in our country: Addiction to opioids.

Earlier this month, I declared a public health emergency in the state to address this epidemic.

Seven-hundred and ninety.

That’s how many people died from opioid overdosesin 2016. Not nationwide — that’s just in Arizona.

Moms. Dads. Husbands. Wives. Taken too soon because of a growing crisis in our country: Addiction to opioids.

Earlier this month, I declared a public health emergency in the state to address this epidemic.

The issue is not unique to Arizona — all states are facing it. But in our state, we are taking serious and strategic action to save lives.

A few days before I issued this declaration, the Arizona Department of Health Services released an alarming report. It concluded that an average of more than two Arizonans died every day as the result of an opioid overdose, a startling 74 percent increase in just four years.

That is unacceptable.

My message to anyone suffering from drug addiction, and to their families, is this: You are more than a statistic. I want you to have the confidence in knowing that our state cares about you and about this crisis.

Here’s what we are doing to fight it:

1. Collecting better, more immediate data

The stories are real, and they are heartbreaking. Someone goes in for a routine procedure, and they’re prescribed a painkiller – potent and addictive. When they run out, they are hooked, and turn to something stronger. Maybe heroin. In the blink of an eye, their life, and their family’s life, spirals out of control.

To help these individuals, we need solutions: 

  • Limiting first fills as studies show that the chance of addiction increases after only a week.
  • Cracking down on those who overprescribe.
  • We also need information. And we can’t rely on year-old, delayed data. We need updated stats about exactly what is happening, and we need it now.

Our declaration directs officials at the Arizona Department of Health Services to amplify their ongoing public-health efforts in order to make this happen. In conjunction with this declaration, I issued an executive order requiring those who encounter opioid overdoses — licensed health care providers, medical examiners, and others — to send their data to Arizona public health officials within 24 hours.

This will allow state public health professionals to more effectively share real-time, actionable information in order to prevent more deaths.

Our fiscal 2018 budget also funds an expert analyst to conduct data analytics and give our auditors and investigators a clearer picture of the opioid landscape in Arizona.

With this new, quickly updated information, we’ll be able to scrutinize relevant data and understand exactly what we’re facing in real time, allowing us to make the most informed choices with the resources at our disposal.

2. Getting naloxone to those who are addicted

There are Arizonans at this very moment suffering from an addiction to opioids. They may know it, they may not. But the steps we take next will determine whether these men and women get a second chance.

It is never too late, even in the midst of an overdose.

That’s why I signed legislation allowing pharmacists to dispense medication to certain individuals who suffer from addiction, or know someone who is, without a prescription. The medication, naloxone, counteracts the effects of an overdose, effectively saving the life of an Arizonan who is about to die.