Howard participates in national roundtable on opioid abuse

Published 5:36 pm Friday, March 23, 2018

Kentucky is helping inform national policy on the opioid epidemic. Dr. Jeffrey Howard, acting Commissioner of the Department for Public Health (DPH) within the Cabinet for Health and Family Services, took part in a national roundtable discussion on Thursday that focused on the prevention of opioid abuse through states’ prescription drug monitoring programs (PDMPs). The invitation-only event in Washington, D.C. was sponsored by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Howard grew up in Harlan County, in Hulen, near the Harlan and Bell County border. He went to Bell County High School and now lives in Louisville.

He discussed use of the Kentucky All Schedule Prescription Electronic Reporting (KASPER) system, which is considered a national model for monitoring the prescribing of scheduled narcotics, including opioids.

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“KASPER is one of our most valuable tools as we work to address Kentucky’s number one public health issue – the ongoing opioid epidemic,” said Howard. “Prescription drug monitoring programs are not only important for providers’ insight into their patients’ prescription drug histories, they are key pieces in the identification of abuse and diversion. I am very pleased to be able to share Kentucky’s successes with other programs and health leaders from around the country.”

Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar, Acting CDC Director Anne Schuchat and health leadership from West Virginia, Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia participated in the discussion. Howard provided an overview of KASPER’s recently launched prescriber report card, which allows healthcare providers to gauge how their prescribing patterns compare with their peers. Data from the controlled substance prescribing tool can be used to compare prescribing patterns with other prescribers in a respective specialty area as well as identify the number of patients who may be at higher risk of a problem due to inappropriate controlled substance usage or potential interactions among controlled substances.

Additional KASPER policy changes that have further enhanced the way the system can be utilized were also discussed. This included conversation around a new measure that allows pediatricians access to maternal health records in the examination of neonatal abstinence syndrome and access to toxicology screens to identify previous overdoses.

“KASPER is a national model and a highly effective tool for prescribers as well as law enforcement, but we continue to seek various ways to improve the system through enhanced data so better informed decisions can be made,” continued Howard.

Thursday’s roundtable was part of other events in Washington focusing on opioid abuse in the U.S. It coincided with the release of President Trump’s plan to combat opioid abuse in America.

“We thank President Donald J. Trump and his Administration for their leadership in working to stop the opioid epidemic. The Trump Administration is working to save the lives of those suffering from drug addiction through evidence-based treatment and halting illicit drug supply,” concluded Howard. “On the state level, Kentucky’s innovative strategies of reducing the number opioids prescribed and increasing the availability of overdose reversal products like naxalone align perfectly with the President’s stated goals. I think we are uniquely positioned to find solutions to our crisis in Kentucky because of the leadership of Gov. Bevin and the collaborative nature through which our Cabinet and others now operate. We have a shared vision and a shared goal of addressing this crisis.”