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Opioid Crisis in Washington State

chronic pain management

After growing alarm over opioid use disorder and overdose deaths, Governor Inslee issued an executive order to combat the opioid crisis in Washington State in October, 2016. The order was aimed at helping state agencies, local public health organizations, law enforcement, tribal governments and other partners better work together in a strategic statewide effort to immediately implement key aspects of the state’s current opioid response plan to combat the growing crisis. It should be noted that before the executive order, Washington State’s opioid response had yielded a 37 percent continuous reduction in prescription opioid related deaths, the biggest decline in the country; but state officials believe that more needs to be done to reduce opioid deaths.

Opioid crisis solutions

  • Cohesive Statewide Opioid Response Plan
  • Prevention education
  • First in the nations set of guidelines to help health care providers treat pain by improving and implementing safe prescribing practices and pain management
  • Syringe services
  • Making effective treatment options readily available
  • Opioid abuse prevention and addiction support
  • Sharing solutions through a multi-state compact

WA State opioid overdose statistics

  • Opioid overdose deaths are now the leading cause of accidental deaths in almost every part of the state.
  • 718 people died from opioid overdoses in Washington State in 2015.
  • In the first three months of 2016, at least 188 people died of an opioid overdose.
  • While prescription opioid drug deaths have declined, heroin overdose deaths are increasing.

The four major goals of the opioid crisis executive order

Goal 1: Prevent inappropriate opioid prescriptions and use by:

  • Helping to stop young people from becoming addicted to opioids in the first place by using prevention education. Agencies will develop a communication strategy geared to youth, to patients and to the community as a whole.
  • Amending practice guidelines to reflect what adolescents really need, limiting adolescent prescriptions and thereby prevent overdose.
  • Decreasing the supply of illegal opioids like heroin and Fentanyl in Washington state. The Attorney General’s Office will organize a meeting in partnership with prosecutors, courts and law enforcement agencies.
  • Expanding tele-mentoring programs, like UW TelePain and adding a pharmacy hotline program. These tools help primary care providers working with patients who use opioids.

Goal 2:  Treat people with opioid use disorder and connect them to support services, including housing by:

  • Implementing behavioral health integration and center of excellence models, including screening for opioid use disorder and increasing medication-assisted and other treatments in an accessible manner.
  • Ensuring the availability of rapid, low-barrier access to treatment medications for people with opioid use disorder, especially pregnant women, intravenous drug users and the homeless population.
  • Ensuring recently released offenders with opioid use disorder are connected with and have access to care.
  • Working to eliminate obstacles to treatment and services for effective pain management, naloxone for overdose reversal and opioid use disorder in insurance and state program coverage.

Goal 3:  Save lives through overdose intervention by:

  • Educating opioid users and others on how to respond if they believe they are witnessing an opioid overdose. Making sure that persons covered by state Medicaid receive overdose education and access to naloxone.
  • Considering centralizing naloxone for the purpose of bulk purchasing to increase availability for public health use.

Goal 4:  Use data to focus and improve our work by:

  • Developing statewide procedures to help state officials and partners better detect unsafe prescribing practices and help identify patients at high risk of opioid use disorder.
  • Improving functionality and use of the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program for health care providers.
  • Identifying ways to notify health care providers when a patient has an opioid overdose.

Consequences of tightening prescription practices

While there is clearly a need to help prevent opioid addiction and overdose through stricter prescribing practices, there are long-term chronic pain sufferers who are feeling punished for the actions of doctors. Many with chronic pain had come to rely on doctors or pain clinics such as the now closed Seattle Pain Centers and are left without access to the prescription opioids they had come to rely on to manage their pain.

The Seattle personal injury attorneys at Morrow Kidman Tinker Macey-Cushman, PLLC have years of experience representing families harmed by medical malpractice. We seek justice for patients who have been harmed by preventable medical errors including birth injuries, hospital-acquired infections and wrongful death in Seattle and across Washington State. There are no fees or expenses to file a personal injury case as we only receive payment if we recover damages on your behalf. Do not delay; personal injury claims come with a Statute of Limitations, which means they must be filed within a certain time frame of the injury.

Call us now at 206-842-1000 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation with one of our compassionate, experienced attorneys.