What Cities Need to Conquer Opioid and Prescription Abuse

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Cities across the country are increasingly affected by the opioid crisis. Here’s our comprehensive roundup of the programs supported by NLC and the Obama Administration in fighting prescription drug and heroin abuse.

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Responding to record increases in prescription drug and heroin overdoses across America, the U.S. Communities Alliance made medications that can stop or reverse the effects of an opioid overdose available to the state and local government sector in October 2015. Now, a key medication is available to cities at a steep discount. (Photo: yanyong/Getty Images)

Many families are struggling with opioid and prescription drug abuse. It is not a topic often brought up in family conversations or that is easy to talk about with loved ones. A diverse group of families across the U.S. are affected by drug abuse and are collecting resources about how to get help in their city. Local officials realize opioid and prescription abuse walks into the lives of families and leaves them helpless in a short amount of time. Instead of being silent on the topic, let’s take a deeper dive on the opioid crisis and how health care stakeholders like CVS Health and U.S. Communities are taking steps to help these populations.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, more people died from drug overdoses in 2014 than in any year on record. More than six out of every ten drug overdose deaths involve an opioid. And since 1999, the number of overdose deaths involving opioids (including prescription opioid pain relievers and heroin) nearly quadrupled.

One way that companies like CVS Health are helping communities address and prevent drug abuse is by increasing availability of Naloxone. Also known as Narcan, this medication is used to reverse an opioid overdose. Naloxone has long been a prescription medication, but CVS Health is working with cities and states to increase access to the drug for patients without a prescription. Tom Davis, RPh, Vice President of Pharmacy Professional Practices at CVS Pharmacy says, “By establishing a physician-authorized standing order that allows our pharmacies to dispense naloxone to patients without an individual prescription, we strengthen our commitment to helping communities we serve begin to address the challenges of prescription drug abuse.”

According to CVS Health, there are 31 states where CVS Pharmacists can dispense Naloxone without a prescription: Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin. And CVS Health plans to make the medication available at CVS Pharmacy locations in more states before the end of this year.

Mental and physical health continues to be on the minds of local officials in every city in America. Health care is the primary concern for mayors in 2016, according to NLC State of Cities. CVS Health has two programs available at no cost to cities to increase awareness about the dangers of prescription drug abuse and make controlled substance disposal more accessible. Police departments can request medication disposal units through CVS Health’s Medication Disposal for Safer Communities Program. These units will help local communities safely dispose of unwanted medications. CVS Health has also created the Pharmacists Teach Program, which teaches high school-aged teens about the value of making positive choices and preventing prescription abuse.

Another program supported by the National League of Cities and the Obama Administration in fighting prescription drug and heroin abuse is a contract through U.S. Communities called Premier. U.S. Communities is a NLC Business Partner that provides local agencies in the U.S. with competitively bid public contracts for various products and services. Premier’s contract saves time and money for public entities by allowing access to 290 pharmaceutical manufacturers, which includes access to Narcan.

CVS Health is a NLC Business Partner that administers the NLC Prescription Discount Program for NLC member cities in the United States. CVS Health is dedicated to helping cities address and prevent drug abuse, including through its education program for teens and its work to increase safe drug disposal options. NLC continues to research topics that affect cities and deliver resources to local officials that alleviate stress while providing residents with a peace of mind. Our Savings and Solutions Programs continue to grow and guide key decision makers every day.

About the Author: Rasheeda Mitchell is the Senior Associate for Strategy & Partnerships at the National League of Cities. Follow Rasheeda on Twitter @LRasheeda.