One state fund has reduced the number of patients dependent on opioids by 60 percent over five years.
That’s 4,714 moms, dads, brothers, sisters, grandparents, sons, and daughters who can get back to living a real life, one free of opioid dependency.
BWC Ohio’s remarkable reduction in opioid usage was the result of a thoughtfully planned and well-executed approach to addressing the opioid scourge that has ravaged the state.
WIth leadership from the state’s Republican governor and a lot of work by the good folks at BWC, thousands of work comp patients have stopped taking opioids or greatly reduced their dosages. And BWC didn’t do this by cutting these patients off; the insurer paid for treatment, weaning, a wide array of programs and services to address chronic pain.
BWC’s pharmacy and therapeutics committee developed a comprehensive approach to opioids, one vetted by practicing physicians and embedded in the state’s Administrative Code. The approach requires prescribers follow a carefully crafted process, mandating compliance with the prescribing rules for all workers’ com patients.
Moreover, BWC did NOT start the opioid reduction effort until there were enough treatment facilities, programs, and trained providers to handle a big influx of patients.
I was peripherally involved in the early days of this; the State worked with a number of experts including Gary Franklin, MD, the Medical Director of the Washington State Fund (L&I). Dr Franklin was among the first to sound the warning about opioids, and as the leader of the State’s Agency Medical Directors, he was instrumental in developing and implementing the first comprehensive opioid guidelines. When Ohio started their planning process, Dr Franklin was heavily involved in helping the state develop it’s program.
Washington’s Guidelines were first implemented in 2007 – over a decade ago – and updated three years later. Dr Franklin et al were years ahead of most of us in identifying and developing comprehensive approaches to the opioid prescribing disaster.
Similar to Ohio, the impact on patients in Washington has been a major reduction in opioid prescribing and big drop in opioid-dependent patients. What’s not “reportable” is the thousands of families that haven’t been devastated and hundreds of lives ruined by opioids.
What does this mean for you?
Washington and Ohio have shown what government can do.