Every day, 44 people in the US die from overdosing on prescription painkillers, and many more become dependent on these medications. While there has been no overall change in the amount of pain that Americans report, the amount of prescription painkillers dispensed in the U.S. has quadrupled since 1999, as has the death rate from these medications. The misuse of painkillers – drugs like oxycodone, codeine, and morphine – is the nation's fastest-growing drug problem and has been classified as an epidemic by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The Northern Sierra Opioid Coalition brings together local leaders from medical societies, public health departments, health plans, clinics, hospitals, pharmacies, law enforcement, the corrections system, community groups, addiction treatment providers, and others, all committed to the same goal – lowering prescription painkiller overuse and overdose deaths in Plumas, Lassen and Sierra. Prominent local organizations who have joined the coalition include Sierra County’s Behavioral Health, Prevention, Drug Court, Probation, Public Health, Eastern Plumas Health Care and Western Sierra Medical Clinic.
The grant will allow the Northern Sierra Opioid Coalition to address the epidemic from multiple angles, including adopting safer prescribing practices, expanding access to effective addiction treatment, implementing community approaches to overdose prevention, and coordinating communication between historical silos, such as emergency departments and primary care providers.
“Our region has one of the highest death rates due to prescription opiate overdose in all of California,” said Dr. Mark Satterfield, Plumas County Health Officer. “Through this grant and the dedicated work of our many partners we can bring a stop to this tragic epidemic.”
This effort complements other state and national initiatives designed to address the prescription painkiller epidemic. The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) received more than $3.7 million in federal funds to launch new statewide prevention efforts, and the California Department of Justice received $750,000 to enhance the statewide controlled substance database, CURES (Controlled Substance Utilization Review and Evaluation System). The Obama administration just announced a major federal commitment to support safe prescribing training across the US.
This work also builds upon tools like the Prescription Drug Community Action Kit, which was recently released by the National Safety Council. This toolkit summarizes how communities can prevent drug overdoses and provides resources to help local leaders build partnerships that address overprescribing (see http://safety.nsc.org/rxtoolkit).
“There may not be a single person in our region who is untouched by this epidemic,” said project lead and PCPHA’s Program Division Chief Andrew Woodruff. “These are preventable deaths, and with a coalition of diverse and dedicated partners, we can do something about it.”