Ohio’s opioid crisis continues to escalate. In an effort to curb the epidemic, the state is launching a new program designed to help spot criminal activity and prescription drug abuse.
Since 2006, Ohio has been collecting information on all prescriptions for controlled substances, including those prescribed by doctors and those dispensed by pharmacies. The data is tracked in the so-called Automated Rx Reporting System, also known as OARRS.
Now, with the help of a nearly $400,000 two-year grant from the U.S. Department of Justice, state pharmacy board experts will begin analyzing OARRS prescription-drug data.
Pharmacy board Director of Policy and Communications, Cameron McNamee, says the goal is to identify patterns of criminal activity and ultimately prevent addicts from ending up in the criminal justice system.
“We’ll utilyze that data to look for individuals who may be engaged in what we call doctor shopping, people that see multiple providers, prescribers to try and obtain drugs, identify these individuals and then work with local law enforcement and treatment providers to try and intervene," he says.
McNamee says OARRS has received a lot of support from Ohio legislators, including Gov. John Kasich. He says the system allows drug courts, coroners, hospitals, doctors and other health-care providers access to the same information.
"In this fragmented healthcare system that we find ourselves in, if you leave the Mercy Health healthcare system, the records stop there and so [doctors] don't know who patients are seeing to get other drugs."
The state’s intervention program is based on a similar one in Nevada that’s widely seen as successful at curbing criminal activity related to drug abuse and getting more people into treatment.
The Ohio pharmacy board will have access to the federal funds beginning October 1, 2017. Officials hope to have the program fully implemented sometime in November.
The program is funded through the U.S. Department of Justice’s Harold Rogers Prescription Drug Monitoring Program.