Governor Doug Ducey signed the first bill of the 2018 legislative session into law on January 26, 2018. The new law passed the Arizona Legislature unanimously. The Arizona Opioid Epidemic Act was designed to attack the opioid epidemic from multiple angles while preserving access for individuals that suffer from chronic pain.
According to a fact sheet on the law, 812 Arizonans have died of a suspected overdose between June 2017 and January 2018. In addition to that, 5,202 Arizonans suffered opioid overdoses and 455 babies were born to opioid-addicted mothers. There is not a single county in Arizona that has not been impacted by opioid overdoses. Mohave, Yavapai, Pinal, Pima, and Maricopa counties reported the highest reported opioid overdoses.
According to Governor Ducey’s office, the law addresses the following factors:
- Identifying gaps in and improving access to treatment, including for uninsured or underinsured Arizonans, with a new $10 million investment;
- Expanding access to the overdose reversal drug Naloxone for law enforcement or corrections officers currently not authorized to administer it;
- Holding bad actors accountable by ending pill mills, increasing oversight mechanisms, and enacting criminal penalties for manufacturers who defraud the public about their products;
- Enhancing continuing medical education for all professions that prescribe or dispense opioids;
- Enacting a Good Samaritan law to allow people to call 911 for a potential opioid overdose;
- Cracking down on forged prescriptions by requiring e-prescribing;
- Requiring all pharmacists to check the Controlled Substances Prescription Monitoring Program prior to dispensing an opioid or benzodiazepine;
- And limiting the first-fill of an opioid prescription to five days for all opioid naïve patients and limiting dosage levels to align with federal prescribing guidelines. These proposals contain important exemptions to protect chronic pain suffers, cancer, trauma or burn patients, hospice or end-of-life patients, and those receiving medication-assisted treatment for substance use disorder.
One of the most interesting aspects of the new law is the Good Samaritan provision. Oftentimes, people who witness drug overdoses are drug users themselves and may not call for help, out of fear of prosecution. This provision would encourage reporting of overdoses. Previously, Arizona was numbered among ten states that did not have a Good Samaritan Law.