Addressing the current opioid epidemic was at the top of mind this week for the 400 or so attendees at the 2nd annual Arizona Opioid Summit in Tempe. Participants ranged from community advocates to law enforcement and treatment specialists.
Lorraine Rivera spoke to Bennet Davis, M.D., who serves as the pain program director at Sierra Tucson. He explained how widespread opioid use has ties to what he refers to as the "trauma epidemic." According to Bennet, experts are now studying how traumatic experiences can lead to chronic pain that is then treated with opioid prescriptions.
Also at the summit, Douglas Coleman, special agent in charge of the DEA's Phoenix division, discussed an increase in the number of fentanyl seizures in Arizona. Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid used to treat severe pain, oftentimes in cancer patients. Last year, law enforcement across the state seized 219 pounds of fentanyl – quadruple the amount seized in 2016. Coleman explained some of the tactics drug cartels are using to get the drugs across the border.
Arizona 360 learned how the opioid epidemic tested one mother's devotion to her son when his addiction threatened to tear their family apart. Tammy Jamison didn't think her son, Stevy Smith, would survive. But after a recent stint in prison for crimes related to his drug use, 29-year-old Smith is now trying to stay clean with Tammy and his stepfather Gary Jamison's help.
The family told Lorraine Rivera how the epidemic changed their lives and turned Tammy into an advocate for others dealing with addiction. That includes educating others on how to administer the drug Naloxone, which can reverse the effects of an overdose. Tammy distributes Naloxone kits as a volunteer for Sonoran Prevention Works.
Arizona recently received approval from the federal government to develop proposals that could lead to work requirements for some Medicaid recipients. That has led to some pushback from civil advocacy groups. Currently Arizona has requested to get some federal Medicaid rules waived so it can implement new eligibility requirements for "able-bodied adults" between 19 and 55 years old. That includes working or attending school for at least 20 hours a week. More than a dozen exemptions would apply.
Christina Corieri, senior policy adviser to Governor Ducey, explained how changes to the state's Medicaid program led to the new work requirement proposals.
Rose Daly-Rooney serves as legal director for the Arizona Center for Disability Law, which joined nearly two dozen groups in asking the Health and Human Services secretary to reject Arizona's waiver request. She explained some of the chief concerns.
Quarter horse racing returned this month to the Rillito Park Racetrack for its 75th year. The sport's origins in Tucson date to before World War 2, and Nancy Montoya reports for much of that time a battle has ensued over the track and the land it's built on.
Featured in this story: Jaye Wells, President, Rillito Park Foundation Ted Schmidt, President, Pima County Junior Soccer League Chuck Huckelberry, Pima County Administrator