Los Angeles – Safe Med LA, a coalition of health care organizations working to combat the abuse of prescription painkillers in Los Angeles County, has been awarded a grant to ramp up efforts to achieve its mission. With the help from a California HealthCare Foundation grant, Safe Med LA will lead activities to reduce prescription drug abuse and overdose deaths. L.A. Care Health Plan was awarded one of 15 grants on behalf of the coalition.
Every day, 44 people in the U.S. die from overdosing on prescription painkillers, and many more become dependent on these medications. While there has been no overall change in the amount of pain that Americans report, the quantity of prescription painkillers dispensed in the U.S. has quadrupled since 1999, as has the death rate from these medications. The abuse of painkillers – drugs like hydrocodone, oxycodone, codeine, and morphine – is the nation's fastest-growing drug problem and has been classified as an epidemic by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The grant will allow Safe Med LA to address the epidemic from multiple perspectives, including adopting safer prescribing practices, expanding access to effective addiction treatment, implementing community approaches to overdose prevention, and coordinating communication between historical silos, such as emergency departments and primary care providers.
Safe Med LA brings together local leaders from medical societies, public health departments, health plans, clinics, hospitals, pharmacies, law enforcement, the corrections system, community groups, addiction treatment providers, and others, all committed to the same goal – lowering prescription painkiller overuse and overdose deaths in L.A. County.
“Given the seriousness and potentially life-threatening consequences of the escalating prescription painkiller epidemic, we are very appreciative of CHCF’s support to implement our actionable plan,” said Dr. Trudi Carter, Chief Medical Officer, L.A. Care Health Plan. “We are now better positioned to work in partnership with our community and members to be safe and have the best possible outcomes.”
“Already, the coalition has succeeded in recruiting all 75 emergency departments in L.A. County to adopt consistent and safe opioid prescribing guidelines, and communicate that to patients,” said Dr. Joel Hyatt, MD, Emeritus Assistant Regional Medical Director, Community Health Initiatives for Kaiser Permanente, who will chair the Safe Prescribing Practices Medical Action Team. “This is the type of collaboration that Safe Med LA expects to achieve in our expanded efforts."
This effort complements other state and national initiatives designed to address the prescription painkiller epidemic. The California Department of Public Health received more than $3.7 million in federal funds to launch new statewide prevention efforts, and the California Department of Justice received $750,000 to enhance the statewide controlled substance database, CURES (Controlled Substance Utilization Review and Evaluation System). The Obama administration also recently announced a major federal commitment to support safe prescribing training across the U.S.
This work also builds upon tools like the Prescription Drug Community Action Kit, which was recently released by the National Safety Council. This toolkit summarizes how communities can prevent drug overdoses and provides resources to help local leaders build partnerships that address overprescribing (see http://safety.nsc.org/rxtoolkit).
For information about Safe Med LA, the Los Angeles County Prescription Drug Abuse Coalition, visit http://publichealth.lacounty.gov/sapc/Plan/StrategicPlan.htm.
About Safe Med LA
Safe Med LA is a coalition of health care organizations that aims to lower prescription drug misuse and overdose deaths in L.A. County. Local organizations who have joined the coalition include: Los Angeles County Departments of Public Health, Health Services, and Mental Health; City of Pasadena Public Health Department, L.A. Care Health Plan, Kaiser Permanente, Blue Shield of California, Anthem Blue Cross, Health Net, L.A. County Medical Association, California Chapter of American College of Emergency Physicians, Hospital Association of Southern California, California Pharmacists Association, Southern California Society Health System Pharmacists, California Emergency Nurses Association, Institute for Community Pharmacists, USC School of Pharmacy, UCLA School of Medicine, Homeless Health Care Los Angeles, Community Clinics Association of L.A. County, L.A. Community Health Project Tarzana Treatment Center, and Exer More Than Urgent Care.
About L.A. Care
L.A. Care Health Plan (Local Initiative Health Authority of Los Angeles County) is a public entity and community-accountable health plan serving residents of Los Angeles County through a variety of health coverage programs including L.A. Care Covered™, Medi-Cal, L.A. Care Cal MediConnect Plan, L.A. Care’s Healthy Kids and PASC-SEIU Homecare Workers Health Care Plan. L.A. Care is a leader in developing new programs through innovative partnerships designed to provide health coverage to vulnerable populations and to support the safety net. With more than 1.9 million members, L.A. Care is the nation’s largest publicly operated health plan.