There seem to be more headlines every day about the opioid epidemic, with Tom Petty now joining the list of public figures who have fallen victim to a fatal opioid overdose. A recent article from The New York Times followed a family for an entire year as they tried to help their son overcome addiction, facing constant worry, hope and chaos.
Addressing the opioid epidemic has been one of our major legislative and patient safety priorities, and we are pleased to say that we are making progress. An overdose notification system that will be one of the first of its kind in the country will be launched in the first quarter of this year. It is one of the ways we are fighting the opioid epidemic that has torn through our communities, and we are partnering with the Washington State Department of Health and the Washington State Medical Association on this work.
Did you know that more than 90 percent of patients who survive an overdose will subsequently continue to fill the very prescriptions that nearly killed them? This is often because their primary care providers have no way of knowing the overdose happened. The new notification system will trigger an alert to patients’ primary care provider and any prescriber of an opiate if they are taken to an ER for an overdose. Providers can then intervene, treating addiction and helping their patients avoid another overdose, very possibly saving their lives.
WSHA is continuing to advocate in Olympia for policy that will help fight addiction, and work on safety initiatives that will improve the care patients receive. Read more about our work plan for opioids this year.