Obama offers plan to fight drug abuse

President Barack Obama announced a plan Wednesday to combat the nation's drug crisis by boosting training for care providers who prescribe opioids and improving access to treatment facilities for people with addiction.

Obama's announcement came during a visit to West Virginia, which has the highest death rate from prescription painkiller overdoses in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. There were 414 prescription painkiller-related deaths West Virginia in 2013.

In 2010, West Virginia legalized electronic prescribing of controlled substances (EPCS), however less than 1 percent of prescribers and only 74 percent of pharmacies in the state are enabled to use the technology.

“The drug epidemic this country is facing can only be defeated through collaboration and support from government officials as well as care providers and technology leaders,” Surescripts CEO Tom Skelton said. Surescripts is the nation’s largest health information network.

“Digitizing the prescription ordering process for controlled substances is a direct step prescribers and pharmacies can take to improve patient safety while preventing fraud and abuse,” Skelton said.

More education is needed to push EPCS utilization across the country. Surescripts created an online resource outlining the steps physicians need to take to begin using EPCS. The website, www.getepcs.com, provides assistance on measuring the certification status of electronic health records software, setting access controls and obtaining identity proofing and signing credentials.

Obama's announcement comes after the introduction of funding for a program in August to increase training for law enforcement and first responders addressing heroin and prescription painkiller-related incidents. 

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