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Prescription Drug and Opioid Abuse Task Force releases findings and recommendations

Group chaired by Lt. Gov. Brian Calley makes more than two dozen recommendations for change

Monday, October 26, 2015

DETROIT – Gov. Rick Snyder today announced that the Michigan Prescription Drug and Opioid Abuse Task Force has presented him with a comprehensive report of their findings and more than two dozen recommendations for changes in regulations and practices that could address a growing problem in Michigan.

The governor formed the task force in mid-June and appointed Lt. Gov. Brian Calley as the chair with the direction to examine the recent trends, evaluate strategic options, and develop a statewide action plan by fall 2015.

“The impact of prescription drug and opioid abuse is being felt in every community across Michigan. It crosses all demographic, geographic and political lines,” Snyder said. “This problem is something we must work together to address as soon as possible and I appreciate the dedication of Lt. Gov. Calley and the task force in working on this issue and presenting their findings in such a short time frame.”

Pain killers are powerful opioids that are highly addictive and opioid dependence affects millions of people in the United States. Prescribed opioids can lead to the use of highly addictive and dangerous illegal substances, especially heroin. Michigan ranks 10th nationally in per capita prescription rates of opioid pain relievers and 18th in the nation for all overdose deaths.

Task force members varied greatly in their professional backgrounds to provide a solid cross-section of input. They represented the Executive Office, the state Legislature, state departments, law enforcement, prosecutors, mental health commissions, pharmacists, doctors, hospitals and insurance companies.

The task force also held a public hearing and subcommittees gathered input from experts involved with the growing problem of prescription drug and opioid abuse in Michigan and across the country. Attorney General Bill Schuette and Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Director Nick Lyon served as subcommittee chairs.

The full report makes 25 primary recommendations and seven contingent recommendations in the areas of prevention, treatment, regulation, policy and outcomes, and enforcement. Highlights of the recommendations include:

  • Updating or replacing the Michigan Automated Prescription System.
  • Requiring registration and use of MAPS by those who are prescribing and dispensing prescription drugs.
  • Updating regulations on the licensing of pain clinics, which hasn’t been done since 1978.
  • Increasing licensing sanctions for health professionals who violate proper prescribing and dispensing practices.
  • Providing easier access to Naloxone, a drug that reduces the effects of an opioid overdose.
  • Limiting criminal penalties for low-level offenses for those who seek medical assistance with an overdose.
  • Increasing access to care through wraparound services and Medication Assisted Treatment programs.
  • Requiring additional training for professionals who prescribe controlled substances.
  • Reviewing successful drug takeback programs for possible replication and expansion.
  • Increasing the number of addiction specialists practicing in Michigan.
  • Reviewing programs to eliminate doctor and pharmacy shopping and requiring a bona-fide doctor-patient relationship for prescribing controlled substances.
  • Creating a public awareness campaign about the dangers of prescription drug use and abuse and how people can get help for themselves or family members.
  • Increasing training for law enforcement in recognizing and dealing with addiction for those officers who do not deal directly with narcotics regularly.
  • Considering pilot programs for the development of testing to reduce the increasing incidence of Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome, which leads to severe withdrawal symptoms for babies born to mothers who have been using opioids.

“We clearly have a lot to address but one of the goals of the task force was to present recommendations that we knew were achievable,” Calley said. “By working with our partners in the state Legislature and the medical community, I am certain we can achieve the recommendations presented. I want to thank Gov. Snyder for his leadership in calling for this review of current laws and practices and his commitment to protecting the people of Michigan.”