Grant will help Cochise County address substance abuse issues
A $100,000 grant will help Cochise County’s Health & Social Services staff tackle opioid and substance abuse issues across the region.
The federal funds, from the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, will be used to raise awareness of safe opioid prescribing practices among healthcare providers, as well as treatment resources.
The Arizona Prescription Drug Overdose Prevention Program contract with the Arizona Department of Health Services, which awarded the grant, was approved by the Cochise County Board of Supervisors at its November 14 regular meeting.
Cochise County was one of only three counties to receive funding – the others are Pinal and Greenlee.
Bisbee-based public health nurse Mira Ibarra will coordinate the program and, following training provided by the state, she will travel across the county to meet with healthcare providers who prescribe opioids.
“This is not a program focused on how providers should practice,” emphasized Carrie Langley, Director of Cochise County Health & Social Services. “This is about educating them on the systems in place that can support them.”
This will include raising awareness of an electronic reporting system, which providers can access to view a patient’s opioid prescription history with other healthcare professionals. The national database, which pharmacists are required to use, will tell providers if a person has already been prescribed drugs elsewhere.
“We want to get more providers actively involved in using this system,” added Langley. “This is also about encouraging providers to take a more mindful approach when it comes to prescribing pain killers, and to help them with the referral process when they identify challenges.
“This is not just limited to opioids, but to all forms of substance abuse. How can we provide the resources that are needed?”
The program, which will be funded annually until 2022 depending on available monies, aligns with the county’s Community Health Assessment report, in which surveyed residents identified substance abuse and mental health as priority areas.
The Health & Social Services Department has developed a Community Health Improvement Plan based on the assessment and it is hoped the Arizona Prescription Drug Overdose Prevention Program will help address some of the issues raised by citizens.
“The education to be provided has demonstrated success in other states in reducing the number of unnecessarily prescribed opioids and the number of prescription abuse situations, especially among teens,” said Langley. “Specifically, our aim will focus on promoting responsible prescribing, and dispensing policies and practices, as well as enhancement of assessments and referrals to substance abuse treatment.”
Healthcare providers interested in learning more should call Public Health Nurse Maira Ibarra at (520) 432-9400.