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Tackling an Epidemic: An Assessment of the California Opioid Safety Coalitions Network

  • Amy Max, MPH, Rebecca Garrow, MPH, Matt Willis, MD, MPH
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The opioid epidemic is having a devastating impact in communities across the nation, fueling a dramatic increase in premature deaths. In California, there were almost 2,000 opioid overdose deaths in 2016.

In late 2015, the California Health Care Foundation (CHCF) launched a statewide network of 16 local coalitions in 23 counties focused on three priority strategies—safe opioid prescribing, use of medication-assisted addiction treatment (MAT), and access to naloxone to reverse drug overdoses. Coalition counties have built unprecedented partnerships and engagement across sectors. CHCF commissioned PHI to conduct an assessment of their network of opioid safety coalitions, Tackling an Epidemic: An Assessment of the California Opioid Safety Coalitions Network, to identify what’s working in these coalitions.

Within just 18 months after launch, more than 90% of coalitions facilitated adoption of safer prescribing guidelines, more than 75% increased access to naloxone to reverse overdoses, and more than 50% expanded use of medication-assisted addiction treatment.

Preliminary analyses also indicate that counties with CHCF-supported coalitions increased their buprenorphine prescribing by 20%, nearly double the 11% rate of other counties, and decreased their opioid prescribing rates faster than other counties. While CHCF’s intensive efforts focused on 16 coalitions, learning opportunities were open to opioid coalitions across the state.

As of April 2017, 36 of California’s 58 counties had active coalitions in the statewide network, representing almost 90% of the state population.

The initiative demonstrates responsiveness to an epidemic that is rooted in medicine, highlighting CHCF as an important driver of sustainable change in health care safety and quality. As an early “incubator” of local coalitions, CHCF has contributed to a timely and critical statewide strategy. However, the natural history of optimal progress among coalitions is measured over years, not months.

Continuing to strengthen coalitions and demonstrate their evidence base will maximize CHCF’s early investment and vision.
Find out more about PHI’s California Opioid Safety Network.

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