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Oklahoma Tackles High Rate of Opioid Overdose in Medicaid Patients

Oklahoma’s had it worse than a lot of other states in the years-long opioid epidemic facing America. The state has initiated several programs to help the situation but remains high on the list of states in the most trouble. However, in 2017, Medicaid will take one of the current programs to the next level in the hopes of making their prevention efforts more effective.

Just a few years ago, in 2012, Oklahoma ranked # 1 state for the prescription painkiller abuse. Statistics were kept at that time on the number of opioid prescriptions written per capita per state. In Hawaii, for example, doctors wrote 52 prescriptions per every 100 people. But in 12 states, there were more prescriptions written than there were people. In Oklahoma 127.8 prescriptions for opioids were written for every 100 people.

To help combat the situation, Oklahoma Medicaid, known there as SoonerCare, started a program called Pharmacy Lock-In – operating since 2014 – which required that anyone who was at high risk for abuse and overdose was required to always get their prescriptions from the same doctor and always fill them with the same pharmacist.

The idea was to keep an eye on those filling opioid prescriptions, identify them as high risk, and then get them onto the program.

The problem is that that’s all the program did. There was no real attempt to get people into treatment. Worse, when someone did get into treatment – a residential treatment program, which is the only workable solution to drug addiction for the vast majority of people – Medicaid no longer covered them.

If they managed to get the help they needed, they were cut off.

What’s wrong with this picture?

In 2017 the policy is changing.  People filling prescriptions will be offered help before they get into the lock-in program. Then they’ll still get covered by Medicaid, and will have a better chance of overcoming their addiction.

“What we decided for 2017,” Burl Beasley, assistant pharmacy director at the health care authority, told News Oklahoma, “is … let’s get to them before they’re in the lock-in program because when they’re in the lock-in program, it may already be too late.”

Beasley also said that Medicaid members are twice as likely as non-Medicaid members to overdose on prescription drugs.

Oklahoma really does want to help. If you or someone you care about is addicted to prescription painkillers – or have gone on to heroin – give us a call to find out how to get help in a good drug treatment center. But don’t forget to also call the health care authority to see what help is available to you.

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