Arizona State Representative Pamela Powers Hannley
State Representative Pamela Powers Hannley's office submitted these responses to the American Opioid Podcast on 4/3/2019 11:24:33 AM.
What district of Arizona do you represent?
Briefly, how would you describe the opioid crisis in your state?
In the summer of 2017, Arizona Governor Doug Ducey declared the opioid epidemic a state of emergency. This triggered epidemiological studies of the opioid problem by the Arizona Department of Health Services. After three months of data collection, the scope of the problem was presented at the Fall 2017 Arizona Public Health Association Conference, along with recommendations. In the data, we saw widespread opioid abuse and death across the state. Some opioid patients were getting prescriptions from as many as nine doctors because of lax enforcement related to online records.
When the Legislature went into session in January 2018, the first item on our agenda was to pass a comprehensive bill to review the scope of the problem and tackle the opioid crisis. Democrats and Republicans negotiated the Arizona Opioid Epidemic Act with the Governor. I was proud to be on the team of Democrats that worked with the Governor. Solid public health strategies were put into that bill, including 911 Good Samaritan bill (treatment instead of jail in an overdose situation); Angel Initiative (turning in your drugs at designated location and asking for treatment); brief hospital intervention and treatment referral; funding to county health departments for NARCAN kits; establishment of a non-commercial treatment referral helpline; $10 million for treatment; limiting and monitoring prescriptions; and much more. Arizona Opioid Epidemic Act was a good first step.
What are the two or three most significant bills that have been introduced in your chamber to help alleviate the opioid crisis in your state?
The Arizona Opioid Epidemic Act was our attempt at a comprehensive legislation to address the opioid crisis. A needle exchange program passed out of the House Health and Human Services Committee but didn't make it into law.
What was your involvement, if any, in those bills (e.g., introduction, advocacy, vote pledge)?
I was proud to be on the team of Democrats that worked with the governor to write the Arizona Opioid Epidemic Act. I contributed some of the public health strategies that were included in the final bill. I voted for and advocated for needle exchange.
Have any of the bills passed? If not, why?
The Arizona Opioid Epidemic Act passed unanimously. Needle exchange didn't pass in 2018 but has been proposed again in 2019.
What was the most memorable experience you had while learning about the opioid crisis in your state?
Seeing the extent of the opioid crisis at the Arizona Public Health Association data presentation was a real eye-opener.
If you had a magic wand that allowed you to pass any legislation you wanted in order to help alleviate the opioid crisis in your state, what would that legislation look like?
The state of Arizona has taken bold steps to tackle the opioid epidemic, but the federal government has done NOTHING. This is a nationwide problem that deserves a nationwide solution. Also, we must look at prevention. How did we get here? How can we prevent people from sliding into addiction?
Are there any additional thoughts you would like to share?
We need better prevention strategies. The Arizona Opioid Epidemic Act was a bold move but did little to address the underlying causes of addiction.