Gov. Brad Little interview

Gov. Brad Little in his office at the state capitol, Wednesday, April 24, 2019.

BOISE — Opioid prescriptions are dispensed in Idaho at a higher rate than 34 other states, and Idaho ranks 25th in the country for prescription pain reliever misuse, according to Gov. Brad Little’s office.

To combat opioid misuse in Idaho, Little on Thursday signed an executive order, creating an Opioid and Substance Use Disorder Advisory Group.

“The opioid crisis is taking lives and destroying families in Idaho,” Little said in a press release. “My executive order uses a broad, holistic approach to examining the crisis, so we can develop solutions that save lives and create a brighter future for our state.”

Opioids and synthetic opioids, such as prescription pain relievers, fentanyl and heroin, lead drug-induced deaths in Idaho, the release said.

“Idaho’s collaborative approach has led to significant progress in combating opioid misuse to date, but there’s more we can do,” Little said. “My executive order establishes an advisory group that will ensure we are investing in the right strategies and programs to make a meaningful difference for our state.”

Melinda Smyser, the administrator of the Governor’s Office of Drug Policy, will chair the advisory group. The group will research, evaluate and provide Little recommendations on:

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  • Policies directing law enforcement and prosecutors to refer first-time, non-violent drug offenders to local crisis centers rather than arrest and indictment
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  • Prescription limitations and practices including use of the prescription monitoring program
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  • Educating the medical community about opioid regimens, risks, and alternatives
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  • Treatment options for opioid and substance misuse
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  • Coordinating and integrating efforts with patients’ current behavioral health plans
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  • Mandates for reporting overdose deaths
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  • Public awareness campaigns about opioid risks
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  • Best practices in other states used to combat opioid abuse and substance use disorder
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  • Actions to be taken at the federal level to assist in these efforts

The advisory group will include representatives of the Department of Health and Welfare, the Boards of Medicine, Dentistry and Pharmacy, the Department of Correction, among many others.

Little will also direct agencies to do more to combat the opioid crisis.

Additionally, a new law will take effect July 1 expanding access to Naloxone, an opioid overdose-reversing drug. Little signed the legislation in February. The law will allow any licensed or registered health care professional to give the drug to anyone with “a valid reason” to possess it.