New AzPHA Report:

Report: Rates and Trends of Opioid Overdose Deaths in Arizona 1999 – 2019: Implications for Public Health Policy

Increasing deaths from opioid drug overdoses have been and remain a serious public health problem in Arizona and throughout the U.S. To address the crisis, Arizona State Legislature, the ADHS, AHCCCS, and the Governor’s Office collaborated to pass and implement the Arizona Opioid Epidemic Act in January 2018.

The Act made wide-ranging policy changes throughout the healthcare system including big changes to prescribing practices. Our report explores the nature of the epidemic in Arizona at the 3-year mark since the Act was passed using data from 1999 through the end of 2019.

Major Findings:

Despite the implementation of the evidence-based policies within the Arizona Opioid Epidemic Act, our report found no evidence to suggest that the epidemic is slowing. Indeed, the rates of opioid and other drug related deaths have further accelerated, particularly in the synthetic opioid category that includes fentanyl.

The data presented in this report indicate that existing intervention efforts (Arizona Opioid Epidemic Act) have not measurably slowed the overall opioid overdose epidemic in Arizona. 

Our report found a slight decline in mortality rates from prescribed opioids after implementation of the Act. However, profound increases in mortality from fentanyl have continued and even accelerated since implementation of the Act.

We urge Arizona’s Executive Branch and the Arizona State Legislature to use our report findings to explore whether changes made to prescribing practices and other portions of the Act have been effective and to implement additional evidence-based public health policy interventions to mitigate this continuing public health crisis.