Opioid Epidemic Now a Public Health Emergency in Arizona

Opioid epidemicWith the release of 2016 statistics from Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS) regarding the steady increase of opioid-related deaths in Arizona­–­790 last year and a 74% surge since 2012—the epidemic is now elevated to a public health emergency. On average, two Arizona citizens die each day from opioid abuse.

On Monday, June 5, Governor Doug Ducey issued a statewide emergency declaration that seeks to coordinate state, local, and private-sector partners in an effort to collect data and develop targeted solutions.

In a press release, AHDS announced that it will take swift action to identify ways to:

  • prevent prescription opioid drug abuse through appropriate prescribing practices,
  • develop education guidelines for healthcare providers on responsible prescribing practices,
  • expand access to treatment, especially Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT), and
  • reverse overdoses through the distribution of Naloxone.

CVS Health announced in May that all 195 pharmacies in Arizona will sell Narcan, a brand of Naloxone, without a prescription.

Prior to the emergency declaration, state agencies and legislators had begun to address the growing opioid epidemic. In October 2016, Governor Ducey signed an executive order authorizing AHCCCS to adopt policies necessary to limit initial opioid prescriptions to seven-day supplies. AHCCCS applied for and received, as the Arizona Single State Agency for Substance Abuse Treatment, a $24.3 million formulary grant from SAMSHA, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, to combat opioid-related deaths.  The Arizona High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area, the Governor’s Office for Youth, Faith and Family, and state agencies ADHS and the Department of Child Safety and will collaborate with AHCCCS to implement targeted activities.

During the 53rd Arizona legislative session, lawmakers were instrumental to this effort as well. First, the Legislature passed HB 2493, a bill permitting pharmacists to dispense Naloxone or any other FDA approved opioid antagonist by standing order rather than a prescription. Dr. Sara Salek, AHCCCS Chief Medical Officer, will write the standing order. Secondly, lawmakers allocated funds in the SFY 2018 budget for five full-time positions at AHCCCS to contribute to the fight against the opioid epidemic.

The public can play an instrumental role in the effort to combat opioid-related deaths. Information about prevention, treatment, recovery resources, and many other ways to get involved is available at substanceabuse.az.gov.



AHCCCS Joins New Initiative to Prevent Veteran Suicide in Arizona

The risk of suicide is three times higher among Arizona veterans than non-veterans. That’s just one reason AHCCCS is a leadership partner in a collaborative initiative to decrease the number of veteran suicides in Arizona by increasing access to resources and support. Launched April 19, 2017, Be Connected joins public and private sector partners in an unprecedented effort help every member of our communities play an active role in preventing veteran suicide.

“Whether it’s the librarian, the home health aide, the teacher, coworker or neighbor, every person can make a difference in someone’s life. We are asking all Arizonans to help our community to be connected,” said Thomas Winkel, Director of the Arizona Coalition for Military Families.

“Every person can make a difference in someone’s life.”

The Be Connected program encourages everyone to “call, match, or learn” about available resources. A 24/7 support line is available to those in crisis. A Resource Match Tool helps people find the right resources for each individual and unique family situation. Training, including in-person and online options, is also available to equip peers and supporters with the knowledge, skills and confidence to help veterans.

Other leadership partners include the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Arizona Veterans’ Services, the Arizona Coalition for Military Families, the Arizona National Guard, and TriWest Healthcare Alliance.

Find more information about the #beconnected effort at www.BeConnectedAZ.org or by contacting 1-866-4AZ-VETS or connect@arizonacoalition.orgef


SafeTALK Training Open to Ages 16 and Older

Arizona Suicide Prevention Coalition, Inc. (AZSPC) is sponsoring SafeTALK (Suicide Alertness For Everyone & Tell, Ask, Listen and Keep safe) training, a half-day alertness training for anyone over the age of 15, regardless of prior experience, who would like to become a suicide alert helper.  Participants will learn to identify signs of suicidal thoughts, recognize when someone asks for help, apply the TALK steps, and know what community services are available to help.  Please note that space is limited.  Registration before 5/1/17 is encouraged.  Please contact Heather Brown at brownh@mercymaricopa.org for more details.