SALEM, Ore.– Oregon, like the rest of the nation, is in the midst of the opioid epidemic but from a recently released audit from the Oregon Secretary of State’s Office, the state’s response has vastly underperformed compared to other states.
Oregon Health Authority’s Prescription Drug Monitoring Program was found to “lag” in implementing best practices that would greatly improve the well being of those suffering from substance disorders.
“I am personally heartbroken by some of the findings in this audit,” said Secretary of State Dennis Richardson. “Oregon badly needs more tools to address the opioid crisis, reduce substance abuse, and help victims. We can do better, and this audit identifies concrete solutions that can help save lives.”
During a live broadcast press conference, Deb Royal, chief of staff of the Oregon Secretary of State, opened by speaking behind a framed photograph of her 29-year-old nephew, Eliot Alex, who died of opioid overdose.
In it, she made a plea for the state to fix what has affected many in Oregon and across the country. After her, Audits Director Kip Memmott and manager of the audit, Jamie Rawl shared the findings.
- Oregon has the highest rate in the nation of seniors hospitalized for opioid-related issues such as overdose, abuse, and dependence.
- Oregon still prescribes opioids at a rate of 13% more than the national average. The U.S. already prescribes more than other comparable countries.
- When it comes to providing access to treatment and recovery support for those with substance use disorders, Oregon ranks last for adults and second-to-last for adolescents.
- The state has the sixth-highest percentage of teenage drug users.
- In 2016, almost 500 pregnancies were complicated by maternal opioid use and 280 infants were born with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome
- From 2015 to 2017, 314 more children entered foster care due to a parent’s drug abuse.
“Many opioid deaths are preventable, but OHA is trying to fight this crisis with one hand tied behind its back,” said Richardson. “Oregon should learn from the experiences of other states and follow the best practices being successfully implemented across the nation. This audit identifies solutions to save lives and money.”
In the audit, 12 recommendations were made to OHA to utilize the PDMP which is considered an important tool in all 50 states but has been stunted in Oregon due to state laws.
A PDMP is a database that collects information on opioid and other controlled substance prescriptions directly from certain pharmacies to provide healthcare professionals with a patient’s prescription history.
“The Prescription Drug Monitoring Program is a critical tool that needs significant upgrades in order to most effectively fight the opioid crisis,” said Memmott. “This audit maps out a way to better address opioid and other substance abuse issues.”
The Oregon Health Authority agreed with the need to utilize the PDMP more effectively and appreciated the audits highlighting changes to help Oregonians. But in a statement, the agency said it could only go so far and would require legislative action before all 12 recommendations could be fulfilled.
“We agree with the auditors’ recommendations and many align with work already ongoing at OHA. Other recommendations require legislative action, and we look forward to advising the Legislature on these policy ideas.”