Q&A: State of the Union & Opioid Crisis

April 01, 2022 by Jessica Redmond

Q&A: State of the Union & Opioid Crisis

Q&A With Prescription Monitoring Product Strategy Director Christie Frick

Christie Frick’s take on President Biden’s plan to address the opioid epidemic in his 2022 State of the Union address

What is President Biden’s plan to address the opioid epidemic? How will his approach affect practitioners and treatment providers? How can state and local leadership support our nation’s fight against this issue? Find these answers and more in this interview with Christie Frick, director of prescription monitoring product strategy for NIC, a subsidiary of Tyler Technologies.

Frick has more than 10 years experience in retail pharmacy, and in 1999, she joined the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control’s Bureau of Drug Control. Fourteen years later, Frick became the director of the South Carolina Prescription Monitoring Program, serving as a member of the NAMSDL PMP Resource Group, on the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy PMP Interconnect Steering Committee, and on the National Association of State Controlled Substance Authorities’ Executive Committee. In May 2021, Frick joined NIC, now part of Tyler, as director of prescription monitoring product strategy.

As a pharmacist with a background in prescription drug monitoring, what was your reaction to President Biden’s discussion of the opioid epidemic in his State of the Union address?

As a pharmacist who spent many years in the controlled substance arena, I was particularly interested in his comments on this issue. President Biden did not disappoint when he acknowledged that the opioid epidemic is still a very real and present danger to American lives. In fact, as a top priority in his unity agenda for our nation, beating the opioid epidemic should get the attention that it needs to bring change in our great nation.

Biden stated that he plans to increase funding in four main areas to strengthen the fight against the opioid crisis in the U.S.: prevention, treatment, harm reduction, and recovery. What does prevention look like for such a widespread epidemic?

As the most recent data coming out of the CDC confirms, we have hit record highs of drug overdose deaths in the past year. Many factors have contributed to this tragedy; therefore, the issue must be addressed from every possible angle to prevent more senseless deaths due to overdose. You’ve certainly heard “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” and that holds true for this epidemic. Preventing patients from succumbing to a substance abuse/misuse disorder is necessary to reverse this trend. Education and awareness campaigns must be utilized both for healthcare prescribers that have the power to prescriber potentially addictive medications and for the public to recognize the risks associated with such medications as well as illicit substances.

President Biden also discussed his desire to eliminate rules that limit the ability of practitioners to prescribe medications for the treatment of opioid use disorder. How will lifting these rules enable practitioners to better treat patients?

Currently, practitioners can only prescribe certain medications to treat this illness after they have had specific training. Additionally, they are limited to the number of patients they can treat at one time. These limits create obstacles in areas where patients in need outnumber treatment providers. Once a patient decides to seek treatment, we need to ensure that they have access immediately. Sometimes a delay can translate into additional time for “one last high” or the need for drugs to stave off withdrawal, which can turn deadly. Sadly, I’ve heard many stories of individuals overdosing while waiting to be admitted into a treatment program.

How do you think President Biden’s personal experience with substance use disorder will affect his approach to this issue?

As someone who has been touched by this issue, President Biden can relate and offer hope and encouragement to a suffering population. He made a very strong statement when he announced that he “believes in recovery” – not everyone can make that statement, so it is encouraging that our president will say it with conviction.

In what ways can state and local leadership support our nation’s fight against the opioid epidemic?

As difficult as overcoming the opioid epidemic might seem, it is not impossible. In terms of taking action at the state level, establishing a prescription drug monitoring program is key. PDMPs can serve many functions, providing education and prevention tools for clinicians, enhancing patient care, and assisting local law enforcement with diversion initiatives, which ultimately fosters a strategic, comprehensive statewide response to this issue. With our state and local leaders implementing tools like these as they work toward beating the opioid epidemic, addressing mental health issues, and supporting our veterans, we can all be encouraged that Americans can get the help they need to have a brighter future.

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