Gov. Ivey creates council to address opioid overdose and addiction problems

MONTGOMERY – Governor Kay Ivey has signed Executive Order 708, creating the Alabama Opioid Overdose and Addiction Council. The executive order changes the previous Alabama Council on Opioid Misuse and Addiction.

The changes include:

  • the addition of the Alabama Attorney General as a third co-chair and a physician appointed by the Medical Association of the State of Alabama
  • new members will also include:
    • the executive director of the Alabama Pharmacy Association
    • the executive director of the Alabama Dental Association
    • the executive director of the Alabama Board of Dental Examiners
    • the commissioner of the Alabama Department of Human Resources
    • the managing director of the Alabama Regional Poison Control Center
    • the president of the Alabama District Attorneys’ Association

Governor Ivey appointed Attorney General Steve Marshall to co-chair the council.

“I am honored to have been selected by Governor Ivey to help lead this new council studying the ongoing opioid crisis gripping our state,” said Attorney General Marshall.  “Opioid abuse, in the form of prescription opioids and heroin, has reached epidemic levels across the country, and Alabama has more opioid prescriptions per capita than any other state.  Opioid addiction, including the use of deadly drugs like fentanyl, is killing Alabamians, destroying families and placing others, including law enforcement, at risk.  This crisis can no longer be ignored.”

A total of 736 people in Alabama died in 2015 from drug overdoses, including overdoses of opioids, such as heroin, fentanyl and prescription narcotics, as well as other drugs such as cocaine and methamphetamine, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Of Alabama’s 736 reported drug overdose deaths in 2015, a total of 282 – 38 percent – were caused by opioids, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation review of CDC data.

Nationwide, 52,404 people died in 2015 from drug overdoses. Of those drug overdose deaths, 33,091 – 63 percent – involved an opioid, according to the CDC.

Use of prescribed opioid pain relievers such as OxyContin and Percocet has been especially common in Alabama. Doctors in 2012 wrote 1.43 prescriptions for opioid pain relievers per person, a rate higher than in any other state, according to the CDC. The national average in 2012 was 0.87 opioid prescriptions per person.

By 2015, the rate of opioid prescriptions in Alabama had fallen to 1.2 prescriptions per person, according to an investigation by the Associated Press and the Center for Public Integrity. But that rate still was the highest among the 50 states. The national average in 2015 was 0.71 opioid prescriptions written per person in 2015, according to that investigation.

“Opioid addition is a major problem in Alabama. We are a top prescribing state with hundreds of deaths each year from overdose. It’s a serious situation that all citizens need to be aware of and help us with,” Governor Ivey said. “We must find ways to curtail this crisis in Alabama. I look forward to reviewing the council’s recommendations for strategies to reduce the number of deaths and other effects caused by opioid misuse in our state.”

“I am committed to working with fellow members of the Council to develop a comprehensive strategy to save lives by reducing and combating opioid addiction and promoting safer methods of pain management,” said Marshall. “Our work will not be easy, but it must be undertaken with urgency.  I look forward to joining in this effort to remove the destructive scourge of opioid addiction from our state.”

The Alabama Opioid Overdose and Addiction Council will hold hold its first meeting within the next three weeks, and will report to the Governor by December 31, 2017.

The executive order can be found here.