Opioid addiction is driving the drug overdoses which are claiming too many lives in the US. In 2015 alone, 718 people in Washington state died from opioid-related overdoses. The epidemic is growing quickly, devastating Washington families and communities.

There are many factors driving this crisis and nobody can solve it alone. Together the Washington Health Alliance’s Quality Improvement Committee and The Bree Collaborative are inviting health care leaders across the state to join a coordinated response and to be a part of the solution. Health care providers and health insurance plans can help reduce the number of people who start taking opioids and help those who may be at risk for addiction. Taking action now can help prevent future addiction.

By engaging all members of our health care community, we can work to prevent new people from becoming dependent on opioids and support the recovery of those who already are. While there are many steps that our community needs to take, we are recommending the following priority actions.

For health care systems (medical groups, clinics, hospitals):

– Register for and encourage routine use of the Washington State Prescription Monitoring Program.
– Use evidence-informed pain care and opioid prescribing.

For health insurance plans:

– Include use of prescribing guidelines in provider contracting as a quality/safety goal.
– Use claims data to identify individual patients who appear to be high utilizers and identify any patterns of potential overprescribing from clinicians.

We are not alone in raising the alarm on this issue. Governor Jay Inslee launched an executive order that brings together state agencies, local public health organizations, law enforcement, tribal governments and other partners to act on opioid addiction. Many local governments, including King County, have formed task forces or other multi-stakeholder initiatives. And nationally, the US Surgeon General launched TurnTheTideRX, a campaign asking clinicians to pledge their commitment to take concrete actions.

We urge you to join us in the fight to reduce opioid addiction in our state.

Calls to action

Call to action for health care systems
Call to action for health insurance plans

Materials for providers and consumers

Opioid Prescribing Guidelines for Providers (fact sheet)
Opioid Medication & Pain: What You Need to Know (fact sheet)
Alliance report highlighting opioid prescribing patterns in Washington state