As the largest organization in this state representing the interests of all physicians, the Arizona Medical Association (ArMA) takes very seriously its responsibility to advocate for physicians, public health, and the patients we serve. Over the past year, you have seen numerous communications from ArMA related to opioids – urging caution and prudence in prescribing matters, sharing guidelines and new state reporting requirements, and reporting on our advocacy as the state’s powers-that-be moved inexorably toward developing legislation to counter the opioid abuse epidemic.
The opioid crisis has reached epidemic proportions, is a complex, multi-faceted problem that requires a comprehensive, community approach. ArMA staff and members have provided leadership and guidance in meetings with legislators, stakeholders, and the medical community since efforts began to address it several years ago.
When the Governor dropped proposed opioid legislation, SB 1001, at the beginning of the Opioids Special Session last month, ArMA’s advocacy team had already spent months in talks with the Governor’s office. Throughout the special session, we worked hard to ensure that amendments to the bill during the process made essential improvements and added protections for patients and physicians. The bill passed with overwhelming bipartisan support and votes were unanimous in both chambers.
To be clear, the political will behind this bill was insurmountable.
Our role as physician advocates was to alleviate the burden that would inevitably fall upon physicians as prescribers. Several lawmakers shared our concerns about the bill, noting throughout the special session that the regulations risked placing burdensome requirements on physicians and encroaching on the doctor-patient relationship.
Now that this legislation has passed, ArMA intends to be your resource by:
1) Providing important information on regulatory compliance
2) Offering educational resources and FAQs to keep our members informed
3) Serve as a repository for member feedback on unintended consequences that may result from this legislation
ArMA will continue to be an active stakeholder and will continue to work with the Governor’s office, legislators, Arizona Department of Health Service (ADHS), our state Medicaid program (AHCCCS), and the impacted regulatory boards to ensure the legislation is implemented in the best way possible and that necessary adjustments are made to protect physicians and their patients.
I want to assure my physician colleagues here at ArMA that YOU made a difference. Our advocacy team incorporated into their work all the information and concerns they heard from many member physicians about aspects of caring for opioid-naïve patients, addicted patients, and patients suffering from chronic pain.
There is much work to still be done. We want to help our physician members prepare for the legislation’s requirements when parts of it take effect April 26. Take a moment to share your thoughts in the comments below.
And in the face of more regulation, please remain encouraged. ArMA is your advocate, and it is comprised of you and your peers. Join us for community and collaboration at our Physician Leadership Conference on March 24. Register today.
Yours in solidarity,
Michael Hamant, MD