States Are Critical to Opioid Prescription Drug Abuse Crisis

In previous posts, we discussed recent federal-level action taken to address opioid drug use and abuse in this country. Commentators have criticized the federal government for being slow to act in this area because of its relationship with pharmaceutical companies, which left the states to fill the gap. Others note that, in any event, state-based action is necessary because the public health crisis manifests differently in various communities and requires local efforts. Over the past few years, a number of states have adopted rules and programs to address opioid abuse and addiction. These state-based efforts include voluntary and mandatory prescription registries and limits on the amount of opioids prescribed to a patient over a certain period of time.

The National Association of Governors has been working on the opioid crisis for the past few years, and it is an ongoing focus of the organization. Indeed, several representatives of the Association met with President Obama earlier this year to discuss this public health issue. The Association has issued a list of its priorities for addressing the opioid problem. The list encompasses a wide range of measures, including increased access to medications used to treat opioid addiction, amendment of the federal privacy rules to ensure provider access to patient substance use treatment information, coordination of state and federal efforts to increase access to state prescription drug monitoring programs, and expanding take-back programs for the disposal of unneeded controlled substances.

Some of the Association’s priorities would expand regulatory requirements for health care providers. For instance, the Association would like to see a requirement that prescribers attend mandatory training. Currently, only five states require physicians to complete opioid-related Continuing Medical Education training. The Association also recommends that health care providers be required to register with a state prescription drug monitoring program. As noted above, a few states already have one or more of these requirements. But as the nation’s governors continue to work on these initiatives, many additional states may adopt similar laws and regulations. As a result, health care providers and organizations may see increased state-level regulation with respect to opioid prescription and use in the coming months. In addition to monitoring opioid-related rules and actions by the federal government, health care providers should closely follow state-level legislative and regulatory activity in the states in which they practice.


Further Reading:

National Governors Association, Governors’ Priorities for Addressing the Nation’s Opioid Crisis, 2016, available at

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The Affordable Care Act: Mandated Benefits Compliance Standards