Ducey limits Medicaid, state insurance opioid prescriptions

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Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey on Monday ordered the state's employee insurance plan and its Medicaid plan to limit narcotic painkiller prescriptions in an effort to cut future drug addiction. (Source: KPHO/KTVK) Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey on Monday ordered the state's employee insurance plan and its Medicaid plan to limit narcotic painkiller prescriptions in an effort to cut future drug addiction. (Source: KPHO/KTVK)
Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey on Monday ordered the state's employee insurance plan and its Medicaid plan to limit narcotic painkiller prescriptions in an effort to cut future drug addiction. (Source: KPHO/KTVK) Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey on Monday ordered the state's employee insurance plan and its Medicaid plan to limit narcotic painkiller prescriptions in an effort to cut future drug addiction. (Source: KPHO/KTVK)
Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey on Monday ordered the state's employee insurance plan and its Medicaid plan to limit narcotic painkiller prescriptions in an effort to cut future drug addiction. (Source: KPHO/KTVK) Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey on Monday ordered the state's employee insurance plan and its Medicaid plan to limit narcotic painkiller prescriptions in an effort to cut future drug addiction. (Source: KPHO/KTVK)
Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey on Monday ordered the state's employee insurance plan and its Medicaid plan to limit narcotic painkiller prescriptions in an effort to cut future drug addiction. (Source: KPHO/KTVK) Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey on Monday ordered the state's employee insurance plan and its Medicaid plan to limit narcotic painkiller prescriptions in an effort to cut future drug addiction. (Source: KPHO/KTVK)
Opioids are highly addictive. (Source: KPHO/KTVK) Opioids are highly addictive. (Source: KPHO/KTVK)
MESA, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) -

Gov. Doug Ducey signed an executive order on Monday to limit the amount of painkillers doctors can prescribe in an effort to curb the opioid addiction crisis that is sweeping across the state and the country. 

The directive caps the first fill of opioid-based prescriptions to seven days for workers insured by the state and anyone insured through Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System (AHCCCS), the state's Medicaid program. Children are not prescribed more than a seven-day supply unless they have cancer, other chronic disease or a traumatic injury.

"These large prescriptions of highly addictive substances are incredibly dangerous, and we have to take action now. By limiting the fills of prescriptions for all state health plans, we hope to encourage private companies to consider similar action," Ducey said in a statement. 

The governor signed the order on the lawn of the state Capitol as part of the Red Ribbon Week kickoff, which focuses on drug addiction.

"This is a preventive step, and one we hope that employers and insurance companies will follow our lead to address the scourge of addiction on the front end," Ducey said.

Ducey cited statistics showing that more than one person a day died from opioid overdoses last year.

The governor also announced that people with state-provided insurance will no longer need pre-approval to be prescribed Vivitrol, a drug that blocks receptors for opiates and alcohol that is prescribed to recovering addicts.

"It can make the road to recovery a much smoother one," Ducey said.

The governor pushed back on questions from reporters about putting government between patients and doctors.

"We lost 401 Arizonans in the last year due to this issue. We know that there is a problem and we're acting on it," he said.

The state's Medicaid plan is also implementing $4 co-pays for some people who receive narcotic painkiller prescriptions under a waiver approved by the federal government last month. The co-pays are due after the prescription is filled and people can be kicked off the insurance program if they fail to pay.

Ducey also signed laws this year requiring doctors to check a database before prescribing narcotics to ensure patients are getting drugs elsewhere, and making an opioid antidote available without a prescription.

The Governor's Office of Youth, Faith, and Family coordinates the yearly Red Ribbon Week effort to educate Arizonans about substance abuse issues.

Ducey's broader message to a gathering of several hundred schoolchildren, addiction counselors, law enforcement officials and lawmakers was that the state needs to do more to address addiction, especially among young people. He pointed out that more young people die from addiction-related causes each year than from suicide, firearms, school violence and car accidents combined.

"Let's be clear, addiction is not a moral failing, it's a disease, and it must be treated as such," Ducey said. "That means prevention, early intervention, treatment and recovery, and it also means better education for our youth and parents alike."

Ducey, however, declined to commit to adding funding in next year's budget for addiction recovery efforts.

"We think recovery is important. The way to avoid some of the high costs of recovery is certainly through prevention, that's what this morning is about," he said. "We're also deep at work at the budget and depending on where we are on the numbers we're going to hopefully have more money available."

The problem is not limited to the Grand Canyon State. 

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie made drug addiction a part of his unsuccessful run for president last year. 

And just last week, Gov. Peter Shumlin of Vermont proposed limiting the painkillers to deal with the drug crisis in his state.

The Associated Press contributed to this report

Copyright 2016 KPHO/KTVK (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.


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Before making the move to television, Welch wrote and edited for the Arizona Guardian, a highly influential online news site dedicated to Arizona politics and government where he served as owner and editor. During his Guardian days, Welch was a frequent guest on “Politics Unplugged” and has been a regular fixture on the state political landscape since 2005 appearing on numerous radio and television talk shows. “I am thrilled to start working with such a talented and dedicated staff of journalists,” said Welch. “This is a great opportunity to broaden the reach of my political coverage and tell stories that affect Arizona voters and their families.” With more than 13 years of experience under his belt, Welch’s arrival only strengthens 3TV’s commitment to providing first-rate political and government coverage across all platforms. When not covering politics, Welch is an avid runner and fronts a punk rock band that plays frequently throughout the Southwest and California. Welch is a well-respected political expert in Arizona and his addition means 3TV will provide a stronger, more robust political presence in Arizona. He joins 3TV from the Arizona Guardian, a highly influential online news site dedicated to Arizona politics and government where he served as owner and editor. During his Guardian days, Welch was a frequent guest on “Politics Unplugged” and has been a regular fixture on the state political landscape since 2005 appearing on numerous radio and television talk shows. “I am thrilled to start working with such a talented and dedicated staff of journalists,” said Welch. “This is a great opportunity to broaden the reach of my political coverage and tell stories that affect Arizona voters and their families.” With more than 13 years of experience under his belt, Welch’s arrival only strengthens 3TV’s commitment to providing first-rate political and government coverage across all platforms. When not covering politics, Welch is an avid runner and fronts a punk rock band that plays frequently throughout the Southwest and California.

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