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Governor Notes Progress in Fighting Opioid Epidemic; Unveils Opioid Action Plan 2.0

Raleigh

Today, at the opening of the 2019 Opioid Summit, Governor Roy Cooper highlighted the state’s progress in addressing the opioid epidemic over the last two years and launched the updated Opioid Action Plan 2.0 to continue to combat this issue in North Carolina.

Since the plan was launched in 2017, opioid dispensing has decreased by 24%. Prescriptions for drugs used to treat opioid use disorders increased by 15% in that time frame, and opioid use disorder treatment specifically for uninsured and Medicaid beneficiaries is up by 20%. There were nearly 10% fewer emergency department visits for opioid overdoses in 2018 than in 2017.  

In addition, North Carolina has received more than $54 million in federal funding, which has provided treatment for over 12,000 individuals with substance use disorder. 

“The numbers show the progress, but it’s the stories that paint a picture,” said Governor Cooper at the Summit. “Too many families and their loved ones are still suffering, and we must do more. That’s why we’re launching the North Carolina Opioid Action Plan 2.0 and fighting to improve access to healthcare through Medicaid expansion.”

North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Mandy Cohen, M.D., spoke on the importance of reducing risk and improving access to treatment. “The progress we’ve made shows what we can achieve when we partner across agencies and organizations and with those on the ground in communities. But there is much more to do. Moving forward we need to work even harder to focus on prevention, reduce harm and connect people to care.”

The North Carolina Opioid Action Plan 2.0 updates the 2017 plan with feedback from partners and stakeholders. Action Plan 2.0 includes local strategies that counties, coalitions and stakeholders can use to fight the opioid epidemic, which claimed five lives a day in North Carolina to unintentional overdose in 2017. 

The plan focuses on three areas of focus to fight the epidemic: prevention, reducing harm and connecting people to care: 

Prevention 

  • Cutting supply of inappropriate prescriptions and illicit opioids 
  • Supporting youth through targeted programs to reduce youth misuse of the drugs 
  • Improving maternal and prenatal care for women battling substance abuse

 
Reducing Harm

  • Training systems and pharmacists to connect people to harm reduction services
  • Making the naloxone kits more widely available to the most burdened communities

Connecting to Care 

  • Expanding access to treatment and recovery support 
  • Addressing the needs of justice-involved populations

The state has taken important steps since adopting the original opioid action plan in 2017. That action includes:

  • Over 3,000 providers have been trained on clinical issues related to the opioid epidemic, including safe prescribing of opioids and pain treatment. 
  • New funding has empowered peer support specialists, with lived experience, to work in emergency departments and help connect people with substance use disorders to ongoing services and supports. 
  • A medical residency training project has been started to train more than 400 prescribers to help individuals with substance use disorder in their medication assisted treatment regimens as they work toward recovery. The program will work with over 20 residencies to incorporate the training as an ongoing part of the curriculum. 
  • 34 local organizations have been funded to implement action plan strategies in their communities.
  • Enhancements and expansion of the Controlled Substances Reporting System (CSRS), which provides prescribers with data visualizations to help inform decisions at the point of care.
  • Integration of CSRS with electronic health records with 29 other states.
  • A Payers Council convened to provide recommendations to insurance payers to respond to the opioid epidemic.
  • Public outreach and education campaigns launched, including Lock Your Meds, More Powerful NC and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Rx Awareness.
  • Providers have developed model health care worker drug diversion protocols.

To stem the flow of deadly opioids, Gov. Cooper has also signed tougher laws to fight fentanyl trafficking and help law enforcement stop illegal diversion of prescription drugs. North Carolina law enforcement continues to work with partners across the region to crack down on opioid traffickers.

Details on the 2019 Opioid Summit 
Stakeholders and community leaders from across North Carolina, 11 states and the District of Columbia are contributing to the 2019 Opioid Summit, which concludes tomorrow. Participants have engaged in interactive discussions on the nationwide impacts of the current opioid epidemic and the integral role North Carolina’s communities play in prevention and response efforts across the state.

The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, Division of Mental Health, Developmental Disabilities, Substance Abuse Services, with funding from Substance Abuse Mental Health Services Administration, and the Division of Public Health, with funding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, have combined resources to organize the Summit. For more information about the conference, please visit opioidpreventionsummit.org.