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Ventura County Part Of Statewide Push To Curb Prescription Opioid Abuse

Imagine this:

What if ever single week of the year, a jumbo jet filled with about 300 people crashed, and everyone on board died. It would be a major safety crisis.

The National Centers for Disease Control says that’s how many people, some 14,000 a year, died from prescription painkiller overdoses.

They are opioids, drugs you know as Vicodin and Oxycontin, which are legitimately prescribed to deal with pain from things like injuries and surgeries. These same drugs can also lead to abuse, and addiction.

Dan Hicks is Prevention Manager for the Ventura County Behavioral Health Department’s Alcohol and Drug Programs. Hicks says opioid use has become all too common among the county’s high schoolers, with 20% of 11th graders saying they've used prescription painkillers to get high.

Now, there’s a new statewide push underway to reduce opioid abuse. It’s the latest version of a web database which allows prescribers and dispensers, doctors and pharmacies in other words, to track prescriptions.

What’s known as Cures 2.0 can help prevent so-called doctor shopping, by people trying to get multiple prescriptions, as well as insuring that patients with multiple medical providers don’t take conflicting drugs. 

Mike Small, CURES Program Manager with the State Department of Justice, says prescribers and pharmacists have until July 1st to register to use the CURES system. Registration is required by law, but they aren’t being required to use it.

Patrick Zarate,  Manager of Ventura County’s Drug and Alcohol programs, says users are concerned about the time it will take away from serving patients to use the system.  He believes that once prescribers try it, they will realize the minute or two it might take is well worth it.

Dr. Celia Woods is Medical Director for Ventura County Behavior Health. She says after seeing how useful the web system can be, they’ve mandated its use with their medical providers.

Ventura County Undersheriff Gary Pentis says the system can provide a critical new tool in combating abuse.  He says it's much more than a law enforcement problem, and it takes the medical community being involved to stem the epidemic.

Why isn’t the use of the database being made mandatory in California?

Those involved with the effort in Ventura County say the state's political leaders so far haven't been willing to take that step.

But with all drug prescribers and dispensers in the state facing a July deadline to register to use the system, county health and law enforcement officials are hoping to get a high rate of voluntary compliance.

Lance Orozco has been News Director of KCLU since 2001, providing award-winning coverage of some of the biggest news events in the region, including the Thomas and Woolsey brush fires, the deadly Montecito debris flow, the Borderline Bar and Grill attack, and Ronald Reagan's funeral.