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GOVERNOR’S OFFICE NEWS RELEASE: Governor Ige convenes multi-department opioid abuse prevention initiative

Posted on Jul 12, 2017 in Latest Department News, Newsroom, Office of the Governor Press Releases

Hawaiʻi’s drug overdose deaths leading cause of injury-related deaths

HONOLULU – Hawaiʻi currently ranks 43rd in the nation in drug overdose deaths. The rank has remained steady over the past six years, even though drug overdose rates continue to rise across the nation.

Drug overdose remains the leading form of injury-related deaths for Hawaiʻi residents. It currently accounts for 23 percent of all fatal injuries, according to the Hawaiʻi Department of Health’s Emergency Medical Services and Injury Prevention System Branch. While heroin-related overdoses are much less frequent in the state, Hawaiʻi is experiencing an increase in deaths from heroin overdoses, which mirrors the alarming national trend.

The rates include deaths from prescription opioids, and regular use of prescribed opioids can lead to dependence. This has resulted in a national epidemic of overdose incidents and deaths.

To prevent Hawaiʻi from experiencing the same rate of opioid-related overdoses and deaths as other states, Gov. David Ige is taking an aggressive approach to coordinate prevention efforts statewide.

“This is a challenge that requires the best minds working together in our islands,” said Gov. David Ige. “We can stem the tide by taking action now and working collaboratively across multiple state agencies to prevent harm and save the lives of Hawaiʻi’s people.”

State departments have been working on this issue for well over a year, and Gov. Ige announced the official start of this coordinated initiative today. The governor joined heads of agencies, departments, and key partners from across Hawaiʻi to kick off this coordinated opioid abuse initiative.

The collaborative effort led by the Hawaiʻi Department of Health, includes representatives of the Department of the Attorney General, Department of Human Services Med-QUEST Division, and Department of Public Safety Narcotics Enforcement Division. The two areas within the Department of Health facilitating this effort with the support of federal grant funds are the Alcohol & Drug Abuse Division and the Emergency Medical Services and Injury Prevention System Branch.

This newly expanded initiative will include the group’s first strategic planning session, which is designed to support a comprehensive statewide plan. The group will build on policy initiatives that align with those recommended by the National Governor’s Association to prepare proposals for the 2018 legislative session.

Much has already been achieved in Hawaii so far, including:

  • Expanded access to drugs that can prevent opioid-overdoses (known as “opioid antagonists”) to health care professionals, harm reduction organizations, pharmacists, all first responders and any person positioned to prevent an opioid-related drug overdose mortality. Opioid antagonists are prescription medications that help to reverse the toxic effects of opioid over-medication and overdose. Laboratory research and clinical trials have also shown that opioid antagonists enhance the pain-killing capabilities of opioids, such as morphine and oxycodone.
  • The passing of key legislation (Act 218) to reduce inappropriate prescribing of opioids. Specifically, this key legislation:
    • Limits the prescribing of schedule II narcotic drugs, including schedule II opioids, except in cases where the patient is certified as terminally ill or when the single-dose packaging exceeds the limit;
    • Requires that controlled substances registrants obtain access to the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP) as part of the State of Hawaii controlled substances registration process;
    • Allows pharmacists and physicians to appoint staff members who can access PDMP information as a delegate of the physician or pharmacist delegate;
    • Broadens access to PDMP information by allowing the Narcotics Enforcement Division Administrator to give access to government regulatory agencies during joint investigations; and
    • Requires prescribing health care providers to adopt and maintain policies for informed consent to opioid therapy.

These early successes and the work that the opioid initiative will do in the coming months will result in a comprehensive, coordinated action plan to aggressively counteract the increased abuse of opioids in Hawaiʻi.

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Hawaiʻi Department of Health

Janice Okubo

Communications Office

Phone: (808) 586-4445


Cindy McMillan

Communications Director

Office of the Governor

Office: 808-586-0012

Mobile: 808-265-7974

[email protected]