WEST JEFFERSON— The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) this week announced additional measures to fight the opioid epidemic, recognizing the important role of health care payers in combating opioid use and misuse.
Medicaid, which provides health insurance to about 2 million North Carolinians, will now require prior approvals for certain opioid doses. And, DHHS has established a Payers’ Council to bring together health care payers across the state to partner on benefit design, member services and pharmacy policies to reduce opioid misuse and overdose.
These actions support North Carolina’s Opioid Action Plan, which was unveiled earlier this summer by Governor Roy Cooper and DHHS Secretary Mandy Cohen, M.D., and includes comprehensive strategies specific to North Carolina. It was prepared in collaboration with community partners to address the complex causes and outcomes of the opioid crisis.
“We look forward to working together to address the opioid epidemic by examining our pharmacy policies and taking steps to improve access to alternative effective pain control modalities and medications,” said Secretary Cohen. “Bringing payers together to promote policies around opioid prescribing, pain management, and treatment and recovery services is an integral part of our work with many partners to address this crisis.”
Ashe County has also waged are against the opioid epidemic.
In 2015 alone, the county has seen the lives of five individuals taken away too soon by prescription drugs.
A September 2013 study by Insight Human Services reported a regionwide increase in substance abuse deaths. North Carolina Injury and Violence Prevention also reported perhaps an equally startling report from a statewide standpoint.
According to that agency, an epidemic of unintentional poisoning deaths continues to affect North Carolina. Since 1999, the number of these deaths has increased by more than 320 percent, said the organization.
Deaths involving medications such as methadone, oxycodone and hyrdocodone have also increased significantly in North Carolina, according to the report. Males are dying in greater numbers than females (750 versus 428), according to the data from 2014.
Reach Jesse Campbell at (336) 846-7164.