Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Some rural California counties have more opioid prescriptions than people living in them

The opioid epidemic is notorious for ravaging Appalachia and other rural areas in the East, but a story from The Sacramento Bee shows that rural and semi-rural California are being hit hard too. "There were 1,925 opioid-linked overdose deaths in California last year, according to recently updated state data, and thousands of emergency room visits, Jim Miller reports. In Trinity County, the state's fourth-smallest with just under 14,000 people, residents filled 18,439 prescriptions for opioids in 2016, the highest per capita rate in California.

Read more here:

An interactive map shows the number of
prescriptions per 1,000 residents in California
counties. Trinity County is the northernmost
dark-blue county. Click on image to enlarge.
Part of that may be because rural California tends to be demographically similar to Central Appalachia. According to a report released in July by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, "The following characteristics were associated with higher amounts of opioids prescribed: a larger percentage of non-Hispanic whites; higher rates of uninsured and Medicaid enrollment; lower educational attainment; higher rates of unemployment; (small-town) status; more dentists and physicians per capita; a higher prevalence of diagnosed diabetes, arthritis, and disability; and higher suicide rates."

The opioid crisis has triggered state legislators to act, but few of the proposed bills seem likely to pass. A bill from Assemblywoman Marie Waldron (R-Escondido) would require California to create a public awareness campaign about opioid abuse. It passed the Assembly unanimously but stalled in the state Senate Appropriations Committee last week because of the cost. A bill by Assemblyman Kevin McCarty (D-Sacramento) would levy a fee on opioid manufacturers and generate an estimated $88.1 million to pay for addiction treatment and prevention, but it did not advance.

"One of the few prescription painkiller bills still moving would require the state Department of Public Health to convene a working group to craft guidelines for the prescribing of opioid pain relievers. It has had no opposition," Miller reports. The Trump administration has allocated $45 million to California to pay for opioid abuse.

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