PHOENIX - The Arizona Department of Health Services released opioid response recommendations Wednesday.

The "Opioid Overdose Epidemic Response Report" is in accordance with the public health emergency declaration recently issued by Governor Doug Ducey.

In June 2017, Ducey issued a statewide emergency declaration after newly released data from ADHS showed 790 Arizonans died from opioid overdoses in 2016, an average of more than two people per day.

The emergency declaration requires ADHS to:

  • Administer an enhanced surveillance advisory, providing enhanced reporting of overdose deaths from doctors and hospitals.
  • Develop and provide training to local law enforcement on protocols for administering naloxone, an opioid antagonist medication that can counteract an opioid overdose.
  • Coordinate public health efforts between state, local and private-sector partners to identify ways to prevent drug overdose deaths.

The data collected through the enhanced surveillance advisory underscored the urgency to take action, with over 2,100 possible opioid overdoses reported since June of 2017, 13 percent of which were fatal. The data also illustrates the success of the state's efforts to increase access to naloxone, with roughly 85 percent of possible opioid overdoses (excluding deaths) given the overdose-reversing treatment prior to hospital admittance.

The report includes 12 comprehensive recommendations, including a series of legislative proposals aimed to reduce illicit acquisition and diversion of opioids, promote safe prescribing and dispensing, and improve access to treatment. Key legislative proposals include:

  • Imposing a 5 day limit on all first fills for opioid naive patients to decrease the risk of dependence and opioid use disorder.
  • Require e-prescribing for some controlled substance medications to mitigate fraudulent prescriptions.
  • Require pharmacists to check if a patient has been prescribed both an opioid and a benzodiazepine - a combination proven to significantly increase the risk of an overdose.

"Addressing the opioid epidemic requires an all-hands-on-deck approach," said Dr. Cara Christ, director of the Arizona Department of Health Services. "Arizona's health care professionals, state agencies, and law enforcement leaders have long played a vital role in improving public health in our state. I'm proud of the life-saving solutions we've already implemented to prevent and treat opioid use disorder, and these recommendations will only help Arizona take our efforts to the next level."

Since the emergency declaration, nearly 1,000 first responders have been trained to carry, handle, and administer naloxone, and ADHS has provided almost 4,000 naloxone kits to law enforcement agencies to help reverse overdoses.