A new task force has been created in Oregon, comprised of safety and health organizations in the area. Their goal is to address the growing epidemic of prescription pain medications and the rate at which many are becoming addicted. This is an important public health issue, and the task force will develop a comprehensive approach to this growing crisis, as the health of addicts, their families, and the surrounding communities are affected. This task force will include representatives from all over the state, with health care providers from Benton, Lincoln, and Linn county as well as different law enforcement agencies, county health departments, and Oregon State University. Additionally, the region's Coordinated Care Organization, IHN-CCO, will be involved.
Oregon has been leading the nation for the rate of abuse of prescription pain medication, shows recent reports from health officials. The increase has been staggering, with Oregon seeing a drastic 450 increase of opioid deaths in the last ten years, a number that far outstrips the number of deaths that occur from auto accidents in Oregon. Not only are officials across the state seeing a rise in the abuse of prescription opiates, there has been a sharp rise in the possession and use of heroin. Law enforcement is also seeing more prescription pain medications on the street, being sold to addicts.
This data has been concerning officials in Oregon and this is not the first time they have focused on decreasing deaths and addiction. In 2014, the last governor-John Kitzhaber- created a prescription drug task force that was intended to address the growing opioid crisis. That task force created a plan with five major recommendations, including:
-The need to lessen the amount of opioid pills that are circulating in Oregon-The creation of more comprehensive public education programs to provide information about risks and limits of opioids-A way for Oregon residents to be able to dispose of their unwanted or unused prescription opiates-Delivery systems that will provide comprehensive treatment to Oregon residents for their addiction to prescription opioids-The need for continued leadership in Oregon, from state leaders, health plans, and Coordinated Care Organizations
The new task force will utilize these recommendations now to create local strategies for the opiate crisis, while leveraging national and state resources. They hope to create a consistent strategy that can be used locally, providing educators, health care providers, and law enforcement agencies a comprehensive plan so that they can all work together. The task force is first creating an opioid prescription policy that will be presented to local providers, while working to enhance the current treatment and support services that are available to patients and families. They are also working to increase public awareness about the addictive nature of prescription drugs and offer expanded educational services for the entire community.
With this epidemic so widespread and the need so great, Task Force Chair Ryan Combs emphasizes the need for movement forward. "We hope to be able to have some elements of the plan ready to roll out by early next year," he stated. "The entire task force knows how important this is and share a sense of urgency to get this work underway."