Social workers going to “educate” prescribers how to treat pain in NM ?

 State gets federal grant to help combat overdose deaths

Just six weeks after New Mexico announced that the overdose death rate had unexpectedly climbed, the state received a federal grant to target opioid overdoses with big data, better monitoring and more education.

The New Mexico Department of Health said it received an $850,000-a-year grant for the next four years to enhance prescription drug overdose prevention.

If renewed each year, the grant would provide $3.4 million for five more staffers working on overdose prevention initiatives.

“This funding allows the New Mexico Department of Health to develop new partnerships with the Board of Pharmacy and the Workers Compensation Administration. It will increase our capacity to reach communities with a high overdose burden,” Health Secretary Retta Ward said in a statement.

After two years of decline, the number of people in New Mexico who died from a drug overdose in 2014 hit 536, a jump of 20 percent over 2013. Officials say 265 of those deaths were the result of prescription opioids. The statewide rate of 26.4 overdose deaths per 100,000 population stands at one of the worst in the United States, along with West Virginia and Kentucky.

A major focus of the grant will be to better coordinate a Board of Pharmacy registry that is to be used by medical professionals who prescribe pain medication — an online tool called the Prescription Monitoring Program. The information is meant to help monitor patients who misuse pain prescriptions by shopping for several different providers around the state to write scripts.

But because there are seven medical occupations that can prescribe — from medical doctors to dentists — there are inconsistencies in how the database is used, as each reports to a different regulatory board where enforcement varies.

“Sometimes people get introduced to opioids in different ways. They’ll get injured and go see a medical provider and they’ll prescribe opioids. In cases, that person can then get addicted and overdose can result,” said Dr. Michael Landen, an epidemiologist with the state Health Department. “This whole pathway starts with that initial prescription and ensuring that prescription is appropriate is important.”

The grant will not only allow the state to capture more data from prescription writers, but also to deploy caseworkers into areas where they see “prescription hot spots” for drugs such as oxycodone, fentanyl, methadone, hydrocodone and buprenorphine.

We’ll be able to use the data to work with individual doctor’s offices to improve prescribing in those offices,” Landen said.

Between 2001 and 2011, for instance, oxycodone sales in the state tripled, according to the Health Department.

Another emphasis for how the money is used will be to coordinate education efforts with the state Workers Compensation Administration, which has data on prescriptions for workers who were injured on the job — such as those with back ailments from heavy machine work or long-distance driving.

Landen said Washington state had success reducing overdoses in this population, which might come from a background where they haven’t seen addiction and don’t recognize it.

“We’d be able to analyze the data and make decisions on how to improve prescribing through their program,” he said.

Some states, for instance, have looked at a “lock in” requirement, in which workers filling pain prescriptions have to use one medical provider and one pharmacy to better monitor usage.

New Mexico is one of 16 states that successfully competed for the four-year grant from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The grant is from a new program called Prescription Drug Overdose: Prevention for States that helps states address the ongoing prescription drug overdose epidemic.

The Health Department also will collaborate with the Human Services Department to increase public awareness of potential harm from prescription opioid medications.

Landen said the grant also will pay for an evaluator who can assess the state’s effort on overdose prevention and determine what approach is working.

Contact Bruce Krasnow at 986-3034 or

5 Responses

  1. Big Data?
    We got data now!
    See IOM report of 2011. They hid that in the warehouse where they hid the arc of the covenant. (Raiders of the Lost Ark)
    Look at prescribing, increased since fsmb told us it was safe and desirable to prescribe.
    ODs track right with prescriptions
    No Epidemic.

    The epidemic is in pain. Let’s bring various warring the federal agencies together.
    Use science.

    “The forced reduction and/or cessation of daily opioids in stabilized patients have, in some corners of our country, reached the point of unscientific and inhumane hysteria.”
    — Dr. Forest Tennant

  2. Sorry…the app decided to self send. Anyway, …eminently more qualified to make these decisions. It’s analogous to having a law office secretary sitting on the bench as a judge in a criminal court of law. There’s a reason that a pharmacist goes to school for right years and may also have a one or two year residency under their belts and a physician also having a eight years of school and up to four years in a residency. Yet the State presumes to have a four year college graduate sit in judgement of these specialty educated professionals. The madness needs to stop.

  3. Lets just define the entire situation as it is. All opioid containing moieties are prohibited substances, with some narrow exceptions as defined by the State and if the agents of the State interpret that the laws and regulations governing the exceptions have been violated, the prescriber, dispenser and patient shall be treated as actors involved in the street level trade of prohibited substances. De facto that is the current situation. The people tasked with enforcing these patently evil statutes are not trained health care providers, and yet they are making decisions based on a knowledge base that they do not posess, judging men and women who are eminently more qualified to make these deviscj

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