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Jay Fleming knows what life is like without his pain medication. He tried it not that long ago.
“I’d hobble around the house hanging on to furniture to try and get around,” Fleming said. “It really affected my quality of life.”
Fleming, a former police officer, lives in the remote, outer reaches of northwest Arizona with his wife and their family of dobermans. He’s been taking opioids for decades ever since a failed back surgery for a herniated disc.
This trial run of getting off the medication, he said, confirmed just how much he still depends on it.
“Most people use them to get out and do things. They don’t sit home and get high,” he said. “It’s their freedom.”
Fleming sees a pain specialist regularly. His prescriptions are tracked and he’s drug tested.
But as alarm over the opioid crisis grows louder, Fleming fears those suffering from chronic pain who have been on opioids for years could become collateral damage.
“I am afraid they are going to restrict them too much. You can only go to a pharmacy and be treated like a drug addict, by your pharmacy, by everyone who knows you take that kind of medicine,” Fleming said. “You can only deal with that stuff so long.”
It’s one of the central challenges policymakers face as they get to work crafting new laws to address the epidemic of opioid abuse and overdose deaths — how to protect legitimate patients while still getting tough on overprescribing?
This week, Gov. Doug Ducey and lawmakers will convene a special session to pass a slew of laws aimed at everything from expanding treatment to reducing the supply of pills.
“Our package will attack this issue from all angles, while protecting individuals who suffer from chronic pain, and maintaining compassion for those struggling with addiction,” Ducey declared in his state of the state address earlier this month.
Ducey’s plan already has the backing of the state’s Democratic and Republican leadership, but it’s still unclear how much pushback will come from doctors and their patients.
In a letter to the state last year, the Arizona Medical Association and Arizona Osteopathic Association expressed concerns about restricting prescribing too much, saying that could hamstring doctors with complex patients.
“One of the things we don’t want to do is get in between the doctor-patient relationship,” said Republican Representative Regina Cobb of Kingman.
Cobb, who is vice chair of the House health committee, said more regulations are necessary, but she thinks they must be targeted and based on accurate data.
Cobb is a practicing dentist and knows these challenges firsthand. She recently received her report card from Arizona’s controlled substance monitoring program, a database providers must use every time they prescribe.
“Not all this is accurate,” Cobb said. “I know what mine is. It says it is higher than what I have done. So rushing through legislation without knowing we are correct is going to be difficult to do.”
New prescribing rules are a significant part of the governor’s plan. It would restrict the first fill of opioids for patients who have never taken them to five days’ worth and end paper prescriptions. Most doctors would also be prohibited from dispensing opioids on-site and above 90 morphine milligram equivalent (MME), a level at which federal guidelines recommend extreme caution when prescribing.
“I think there need to be some things addressed. I just don’t want to be going too far. What I have seen from the proposals is that it’s mainly directing at limiting the doctors,” Cobb said. “That’s not all the problem.”
State numbers show heroin was involved in overdoses just as much as oxycodone in the past six months.
The governor’s plan would set aside $10 million for treatment and establish a 911 Good Samaritan law to protect people from prosecution who call to report an overdose.
Senator David Bradley, a Democrat from Tucson, said it’s unfortunate that doctors will have to deal with more rules, “but unfortunately when someone in your profession does something like this, everyone suffers.”
“My response is too bad,” Bradley said. “If it becomes burdensome and people are suffering, we don’t want that to happen and over time we could make adjustments.”
Dr. Cara Christ, director of the Arizona Department of Health Services, said the proposed regulations are focused on prevention, which is why patients with prescriptions right now would not be affected by them.
“We are not tapering them down,” Christ said, “because we understand we don’t want to push people to illicit unregulated drugs.”
Christ said the state has worked extensively with the medical community to design prescribing guidelines and that doctors will still have the flexibility to treat patients who need the medicine. There would be exceptions for trauma, cancer and hospice patients, among others, and pain specialists would not be subject to the rules.
“We are not trying to limit responsible use of the medication. We just want to try to prevent people from developing a lifelong chronic disease,” Christ said, referring to substance use disorder.
Since June — when the governor declared a public health emergency — about 40 percent of those who overdosed in Arizona had nine or more prescriptions filled in the past year. Chronic pain was also the most common pre existing medical condition for those who overdosed.
Christ said such findings show the need for more oversight.
“We completely understand there is a majority of physicians that are acting responsibly and we want them to still have the tools that they need to treat their patients,” she said. “It’s really the prescribers who are overprescribing to make a profit and are just not using reasonable care.”
The number of prescriptions in Arizona has been going down gradually in recent months, but Christ said it will take years before Arizona sees the true effect of its prevention efforts.
Original Source: https://kjzz.org/content/596247/ducey-opioid-plan-aims-restrict-prescribing-protect-arizona-patients
Further Reading: http://kjzz.org/arizonas-opioid-crisis
ORIGINAL SOURCE: https://azgovernor.gov/governor/news/2018/01/arizona-opioid-epidemic-act-outlines-comprehensive-solutions
Giving Tuesday is right around the corner!
Giving Tuesday was created to unite us all in a day of generosity, to make a difference in the world any way we choose at the start of this busy holiday season.
Celebrated on the Tuesday following Thanksgiving (in the U.S.) and the widely recognized shopping events Black Friday and Cyber Monday, Giving Tuesday kicks off the charitable season, when many focus on their holiday and end-of-year giving.
One of the best ways to get involved is in your own community – Join the Giving Tuesday movement by supporting ViVRE today with the gift of your time, talent, or treasure!
This years Art of Recovery Expo will have thousands of participants- it is a free event and we are proud to participate. This year we have committed to volunteer and do service work. Look for our team of men and women residents in the ViVRE t-shirts helping out at the event. Find Coach Carl giving a presentation about his fitness program “Fit Four Life” and see keynote speaker Austin Eubanks – a 1999 Columbine survivor who’s injuries got him addicted to opioids and led him to an amazing path to recovery. We do recover! Come see our amazing staff with our sponsor Building Blocks Counseling at our booth. This is our fourth year participating. Go #teamvivre
more info about the event at artofrecoveryexpo.com
We are wholeheartedly honored to announce that we will be proud participants in the Arizona 10th Anniversary Aunt Rita’s AIDS Walk 2017. ViVRE has partnered up with its sister company, Building Blocks Counseling to help raise money for the essential services and care to those affected by HIV and AIDS.
AIDS Walk Arizona & Fun Run is Arizona’s largest and only grassroots charity fundraiser in Phoenix benefiting Aunt Rita’s Foundation and our 16 Agency Partners that provide prevention education, testing, and essential services to those affected by HIV and AIDS. Over the past decade, AIDS Walk Arizona has inspired tens of thousands of people to walk and donate, raising over a million dollars to combat HIV and AIDS. These funds remain a vital lifeline sustaining the prevention, care and advocacy programs Aunt Rita’s Foundation and our 16 Partner Agencies provide for the thousands of men, women, and families affected by the disease in Metro Phoenix.
Do you want to make a difference? Would you like to be a part of someone’s success story?
You could make a difference in someone’s life today by making a financial donation to an amazing nonprofit organization.
ViVRE’s 90 day program is specially designed for the reentry population. We provide quality housing to help people at risk, transition back into society. We have a clean and sober positive structured environment and because we are a nonprofit, we accept all clients regardless of their ability to pay.
Our supporters and volunteers come from all walks of life, ages and economic and social demographics.
Find your way to help ViVRE by donating your time and/or financial contribution.
Give happily and know that your blessings will multiply as you share with those in need. It’s the little things in life that tend to add up in a big way.
ViVRE needs more than money to further our mission: “to provide quality housing to help people at risk, transition back into society.” Our men and women are tremendously supported by you tax deductible donations of clothing, extra food, bottled water and your professional expertise– we are always looking for volunteers you can donate your time to help them learn budgeting, resume writing, and other special knowledge you may want to donate.
Donations can be brought to our corporate offices at 4225 W Glendale Phoenix, AZ 85051. Sometimes a driver can pick up donations as well Call our programs liaison Josh Hamilton at 602-626-8112 . Thank you for helping us further our mission.
ViVRE means – to live. Our residents are thriving, this week four of them were awarded certificates for going beyond the expected community service. All our women stand out as leaders in volunteerism.
Art of Recovery Expo 2017
This year is our fourth year participating in the Art of Recovery Expo. We our proud to be a part of what is the largest regional event all about recovery. There couldn’t be a more important time to come together in the middle of this opioid epidemic. More information on the State’s efforts to combat this and the angel initiative which we participate go to substanceabuseaz.gov
ViVRE will have a booth next to our association – AzRHA again this year.
Our Volunteer coordinator Coach Carl Hargrave will be giving a presentation and many of our residents and staff will be available to do community service work and join in the fun at this year’s expo. For more information, stay tuned to the Team ViVRE thread of Art of Recovery, check out our ViVRE Housing youtube channel and of course go to artofrecoveryexpo.com for full details.