Opioid Action Plan 2.0 Details Next Steps in Combatting Epidemic

State Opioid Coordinator Elyse Powell, PhD, discusses the North Carolina Opioid Action Plan 2.0

State Opioid Coordinator Elyse Powell discusses the North Carolina Opioid Action Plan 2.0

June 18, 2019 – North Carolina’s Opioid Action Plan 2.0 builds upon the progress resulting from the initial version of the plan launched in June 2017.

Launched by Governor Roy Cooper and DHHS Secretary Mandy Cohen at the opening of the 2019 Opioid Misuse & Overdose Prevention Summit on June 11, the Opioid Action Plan 2.0 was discussed in depth at a break-out session the next day.

The updated plan was created with the input of numerous partners and stakeholders and aims to have a greater impact across the state.  

“We’ve gotten a lot done, but there’s so much more work we need to do,” State Opioid Coordinator Elyse Powell told the crowded meeting room. “That’s where Opioid Action Plan 2.0 comes in.”
The new plan holds onto the goal of reducing opioid overdose deaths by 20 percent by 2021 through impactful, feasible strategies to reduce opioid overdoses in the state while leveraging time, effort and resources to prevent the next wave of the epidemic. This will be accomplished through three core strategies: prevention, reducing harm and connecting people to care.

“We’ve seen progress over the last two years,” said Dr. Susan Kansagra. “But we’re really going to double down our efforts with this new plan.”

Prevention strategies include: 

  • Increase the use of opioid-sparing pain treatment
  • Use the Controlled Substances Reporting System (CSRS) to reduce opioid overprescribing
  • Reduce the supply of diverted and illicit opioids
  • Reduce youth misuse of drugs
  • Prevent trauma, including the reduction of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) and increase resiliency to trauma
  • Improve prenatal, maternal and infant care for women with substance use disorders

More than 80% of unintentional overdose deaths now involve illicit opioids like heroin and fentanyl. Polysubstance use is on the rise, with 60% of overdose deaths involving more than one substance. 

“We’re acknowledging that multiple substances are at play and we need to think about substance use disorders much more broadly than opioids,” said Powell.

The updated plan includes a strategy to reduce harm by:

  • Eliminating the stigma around people who use drugs 
  • Increasing access to harm reduction services with 30 additional syringe exchange programs
  • Addition of education, testing and referral to care, and training for health systems and pharmacists to provide and refer to harm reduction services
  • Expanding employment support services for people with substance use disorders
  • Addressing determinants of health 

With an estimated 89% of people not receiving the substance use disorder treatment they need, the new action plan calls for expanded access to treatment and recovery supports by closing the Medicaid coverage gap, piloting alternative payment models that support improved care coordination for patients and exploring telehealth and telemedicine options to increase rural access to treatment.

People are 40 times more likely to die of an overdose in the two weeks following incarceration than the general population. Working with justice-involved people, the Opioid Action Plan 2.0 aims to increase pre-arrest diversion of low-level offenders, provide overdose prevention education and medication-assisted treatment during incarceration and upon release, and expanding supports for people after they’re released from prison.

For more information on the Opioid Action Plan 2.0, go to www.ncdhhs.gov/opioids.  

Ryan Hill