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Arizona Health Officials Offer Broad Set Of Remedies For Opioid Epidemic

After months of work, Arizona health officials have issued a broad set of recommendations to Gov. Doug Ducey on how to combat the opioid epidemic.

Among them: Limiting the first prescription of painkillers. More closely regulating pain clinics. Requiring pharmacists to check what other medications patients may be taking.

In June, Ducey declared the opioid epidemic a public health emergency, citing the rising number of overdose deaths, about two each day.

Since then, the Arizona Department of Health Services has been collecting data and devising ways to address the epidemic. The new report lists more than a dozen steps that can be taken. Some require new state laws, others federal intervention.

ADHS Director Dr. Cara Christ said limiting the first fill of painkillers to five days for people who have never taken opioids before could prevent them from becoming addicted.

“Recently data came out from the CDC that showed the risk of long-term opioid use significantly decreases after day five. Most people will no longer need opioids after that for an acute injury and post surgery,” Christ said.

She said that would hopefully be part of a broader legislative package, which would also restrict the maximum dosage and eliminate paper prescriptions.

Gov. Ducey spokesperson Daniel Scarpinato said the governor believes some of these ideas can be turned into law next session.

“We really see this as a totally non-partisan issue. I think republicans and democrats are seeing these numbers and there’s an opportunity here to save lives,” he said.

The state hopes to reduce the number of opioid related deaths by 25 percent over the next five years.

Will Stone grew up with the sounds of public radio. As a senior field correspondent, he strives to tell the same kind of powerful stories that got him into the business — whether that means trudging through some distant corner of the Sonoran Desert or uncovering an unknown injustice right down the street. Since joining the KJZZ newsroom in 2015, he has covered political scandals, fights over the future of energy, and efforts to care for some of Arizona’s most vulnerable communities. His pieces have also aired on national programs like Morning Edition, All Things Considered, Here & Now and Marketplace. Before coming to KJZZ, he reported for public radio stations in Nevada and Connecticut. Stone received his degree in English literature from Haverford College, where he also wrote about the arts and culture scene in Philadelphia. After graduating, he interned at NPR West in Culver City, California, where he learned from some of the network’s veteran reporters and editors. When he doesn’t have a mic in hand, Stone enjoys climbing mountains, running through his central Phoenix neighborhood and shamelessly promoting his cat, Barry.