State Sen. AJ Griffin has been appointed to a panel charged with examining the prescription opioid crisis that’s claimed the lives of thousands of Oklahomans in recent years. Griffin, R-Guthrie, was the principal Senate author of legislation creating the Oklahoma Commission on Opioid Abuse.
“Just in the last three years, there have been at least 2,684 opioid related deaths in Oklahoma. Those aren’t just numbers—they are mothers, fathers, husbands, wives, children and friends. It’s a needless loss their loved ones will never get over,” Griffin said. “This commission represents a continuing effort to prevent the abuse and addiction that has resulted in the tragic deaths of so many Oklahomans.”
The commission will be chaired by Attorney General Mike Hunter and the panel will include legislators, medical professionals and representatives of the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse, the District Attorneys Council and the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs.
The opioid commission is just the latest legislative effort by Griffin to help Oklahoma better address the issue of opioid abuse, addiction and overdoses. In 2015, she authored legislation aimed at reducing doctor shopping for prescriptions by requiring physicians to check the Prescription Monitoring Program (PMP) database before writing prescriptions for potentially dangerous and addictive drugs such as oxycodone and hydrocodone. Griffin also authored legislation to widen the availability of a life-saving medication to reverse the effect of opioid overdose. She has also written legislation to give law enforcement access to statistical data on opioid prescriptions to identify trends and develop effective strategies in response.
“Part of the problem is perception. Most people think of illegal drugs like heroin as being dangerous but they see prescription medications as being perfectly safe. The truth is prescription opioids are just as addictive and just as lethal,” Griffin said. “We have to look at this issue from every angle including education, prevention and treatment. We also need to get a better idea of how many prescriptions are being written, and how many of those drugs are then being sold illegally. This is a complex problem and it will require a comprehensive approach to solve it. This commission will be looking at all aspects of Oklahoma’s opioid epidemic, and making recommendations based on what we learn.”
The commission’s first report to the governor and legislature is expected to be submitted by Dec. 1.