Opioid Abuse Prevention Headlines OMA Priorities

CEO Bryan Boehringer is working with a statewide coalition to reduce opioid abuse, while Rep. Knute Buehler is introducing legislation next month.

There’s never been a more challenging time to deal with opioid abuse since Oregon leads the nation in nonmedical use of these morphine-based drugs. During the first half of 2015, practitioners wrote more than 1.4 million prescriptions for hydrocodone and oxycodone, according to the Oregon Prescription Drug Monitoring Program, while a preliminary analysis found opiates were involved in 109 deaths in Multnomah County in 2014, with about half involving prescription opiates.

As the newly appointed CEO of the Oregon Medical Association, Bryan Boehringer, is determined to make a difference to prevent opioid abuse.

Earlier, he formed an internal task force that’s part of a statewide coalition led by the Oregon Health Leadership Council and includes the OMA, Oregon College of Emergency Physicians, Multnomah County Public Health, Oregon Health Authority, Lines for Life, CareOregon and other provider groups.

Based on its recommendations, Rep. Knute Buehler, R-Bend, who’s also a surgeon, is introducing legislation in February – House Bill 4124 -- to streamline the use of the prescription drug monitoring program by allowing seamless integration into existing technology, eliminating the need for multiple provider logins.

The bill will also connect this monitoring program to technology systems to preserve the privacy and security of the information so that only authorized users can access the data, Boehringer said. .

HB 4124 will also increase access to the life-saving drug, Naloxone, which reverses the effects of opioids and prevent an overdose. Under the legislation, pharmacists will be able to prescribe and dispense the medication, but non-medical providers would still be required to complete the existing training on how to administer Naloxone in a safe and effective manner before it could be dispensed.

Opioid prevention also takes center stage when the OMA holds its annual meeting on April 23. The tentative schedule includes Dr. David Barbe, keynote speaker from the American Medical Association; Dr. Sharon Meieran, an emergency room physician who’ll discuss the prescription drug monitoring program; Dwight Holton from Lines for Life, and Dr. Katrina Hedberg from the OHA.

At the OMA, Boehringer is also determined to build a stronger organization, offering new services and finding new ways to engage with its members, while keeping its eyes focused on employed physicians.

“It’s an exciting time to work for an organization that represents physicians and physician assistants who are under a lot of stress; we want to be there for them and continue doing a good job on advocacy in Salem,” he said. “We’re also working on mentorship and leadership programs for physicians new to the state and want to figure out ways to tie in our older members who are open to volunteering. And, we want to make sure people see a strong OMA that’s part of the voice of medicine.”

Diane can be reached at [email protected].

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