January 22, 2018
Phoenix, AZ. Today, Governor Doug Ducey will call a special session to address the opioid crisis in Arizona. If passed, the Arizona Opioid Epidemic Act would provide millions in additional funding for drug treatment services, expand access statewide to life-saving opioid antagonists such as Narcan and Naloxone, and establish a Good Samaritan law, which shields persons calling for help in the event of an overdose from prosecution for drug possession.
“Addressing opioid addiction as a public health crisis ensures that the public policy solutions will be appropriate and effective,” said Caroline Isaacs, Director of the American Friends Service Committee of Arizona. “We know that treatment is the best tool we have to address this problem, but the funding just hasn’t kept up with the need in most communities.”
Last June, the Governor declared a state of emergency upon findings by the Arizona Department of Health Services that opioid overdose deaths rose by 74% between 2013 – 2017. Since then, the Director of the Department of Health Services, health service providers, criminal justice advocates, and lawmakers from both sides of the aisle have spent long hours formulating a workable response to this crisis.
The urgency of the opioid epidemic demands comprehensive, nonpartisan solutions. The Arizona Opioid Epidemic Act is a breath of fresh air for reform advocates who have worked tirelessly to address the systemic causes of drug addiction in our communities. “We have much more work ahead of us before we will be able to bring an end to the pain that thousands of family members and friends suffer daily from losing their loved ones to drug overdose,” said Isaacs. “The Opioid Epidemic Act is a giant first step toward recognizing and addressing the epidemic of addiction in Arizona, but we must be prepared to do more. Until we can find a way to reform the outdated and ineffective laws that criminalize and punish addiction rather than treat it as the health problem that it is, we will fall short of bringing a true end to this crisis.”