17 Apr Understanding the Opioid Issue with Worker’s Compensation
Addiction to drugs, particularly pain-killer drugs known as opioids, has become a big issue nationwide in the last few years. Some of the common prescription opioids are Oxycodone, also called Oxycontin, Percodan, or Percocet; Hydrocodone, also called Vicodin, Lortab, Lorcet, Norco, or Zohydro; Morphine, Fentanyl, and Methadone, and more.
In 2018, Arizona’s Governor Doug Ducey signed SB1111, a section of the full bill known as the Opioid Epidemic Act (SB1001), which requires that all injured workers must see their doctors more often on a face-to-face basis when they are prescribed any opioids.
One of the reasons for this reform was the ‘Arizona Department of Health Services report that more than two Arizonans die every day from opioid overdose.’ Many of these deaths are caused by prescribed opioids. You can find out more here at the link for the draft version of the 2018 Arizona Opioid Prescribing Guidelines.
It is now required of doctors that, not only should they do a physical exam, but that a substance abuse risk assessment is done as well, along with informing the patient about opioids and gaining consent to prescribe them to the patient. As part of discouraging any predilection to becoming addicted to opioids, a tapering-down program is also included as part of mandatory treatment for most cases.
The Employer Has a Right to Know
In the case of work-related injuries, employers also have the right to receive reports on injuries and what drugs, related to the injury, being prescribed, including records on the tapering-down portion of the recovery period. All other medical and personal information not related to the work-place injury remains confidential between the patient and the doctor.
Arizona Opioid Assistance & Referral (OAR) Line
While the need to reduce opioid addiction is essential, medical providers have a place where they can connect to discuss their patients who need to remain on managed opioid care and to find out more about liabilities they are responsible for. It is one of the first hotlines in the nation that assists medical providers with the information they need to deal appropriately with complex medical situations.
Arizona medical providers can go to this OAR link to find out more. As of Spring, 2018, the program was to expand to include the public and those looking for help with opioid use disorders. The number for the medical provider hotline is 888-688-4222 and the number for the Arizona Poison and Drug Information Center (24/7) for the public to call is 800-222-1222.
The Grandfather Clause
Some patients have had their medications scaled back because the medical provider feared there would be action taken against having prescribed opioids to a patient. As part of instituting the opioids act, those patients already prescribed opioids who have been under managed care for some time because of chronic severe pain, should not be affected. The Opioid Epidemic Act is more for those who have recently been injured and are unaware of the dangers of opioid addiction.
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