A new state law was enacted one year ago to help combat the growing opioid epidemic.
In 2017, about 1,900 of the nearly 2,700 drug overdose deaths throughout the state were attributed to opioids.
The new law forces prescribers to take extra steps checking a patient’s history before issuing the drugs.
“I think the laws are an abysmal failure,” said Dr. William Morrone, deputy chief medical examiner for Bay County.
Morrone believes the laws aren’t working.
The laws limit the number of opioids doctors can prescribe, which Morrone believes ignores the need for proper treatment.
“These laws did not make accessing treatment easier. They made punishing prescribing outside of state laws the dominant focus, not starting treatment,” Morrone said.
Morrone has a small sample size of numbers to support his belief that the laws are not moving the needle. He said in all of 2017, 28 people in Bay County died from opioids. In the first six months of 2018, 17 people died from opioids, putting Bay County on pace to surpass last year’s total.
“The total number of autopsies and deaths has gone up and the percent of opioid related or heroin/fentanyl related deaths has also gone up. In a time that we had laws passed to give us guidance to reduce opioid overdose death and addiction, the opposite has happened,” Morrone said.
Morrone is also the medical director of Recovery Pathways, a treatment clinic in Bay County. He is adamant that treating addiction is the only way to reduce the number of opioid deaths in Bay County and across the state. He hopes a new set of lawmakers set to take office next year feel the same way.
“A new administration and a new governor and a new lieutenant governor may say, ‘hey, you know what? You’ve got something here. We’ll look at this.’ That’s what I’m hoping for,” Morrone said.
The Department of Health and Human Services said it does not have 2018 data yet and said it could take some time to see results given the seriousness of the problem, but Michigan is using a multi-faceted approach that focuses on prevention, treatment and enforcement against anyone who overprescribes opioids.