Governor Ducey’s executive order declaring a public health emergency includes a requirement for the Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS) to provide a report on findings and recommendations to the Governor by September 5, 2017.  The emergency declaration will officially come to an end when the Governor accepts the report.

In order to develop the recommendations, the ADHS team is utilizing the expertise and ideas of partner organizations as well as information mined through the enhanced surveillance.  Last week, we gathered nearly 200 folks from various organizations throughout Arizona who have volunteered their time participating in subgroups of Governor’s Goal Council 3:  Reducing Opioid Deaths Breakthrough Project.  The subgroups have worked together since the end of the June to develop ideas for reducing opioid deaths.  On August 23 the groups met together to share draft recommendations and focus in priorities.  ADHS will include some of these recommendations as well as others in the report to the Governor next week.

The real time data being reported by through the enhanced surveillance provides some insight into how the opioid epidemic is currently unfolding in Arizona and points to possible areas of intervention.  Here are some highlights from the analysis (for data reported June 15 – August 10) presented at last week’s Goal Council meeting:

  • The average number of opioid prescriptions dispensed each week is just over 95,000; this amounts to an average of 6.8 million opioid pills per week
  • About 16% of people with suspected opioid overdoses occurring during the surveillance period had been hospitalized in 2016 with an opioid-related cause
  • Of the people experiencing suspected opioid overdoses who were found to have had an opioid prescribed to them in past year,
    • 74% had more than one opioid prescription
    • 42% had a combination of opioids and benzodiazepines prescribed (this combination is so dangerous that the FDA has issued a black box warning about this)
    • 50% had 10 or more providers prescribe opioids to them over the last year

The picture of the crisis is likely to change as more data continues to be reported.  You can find more details on this analysis at and look for “Reducing Opioid Deaths – August 23, 2017 Goal Council 3 Presentation” in the call-out box.