As the magnitude of the opioid epidemic grew in recent years, individual states across the United States of America enacted myriad policies to address its complications. We conducted a qualitative examination of the structure, successes, and challenges of enacted state laws and policies aimed at the opioid epidemic, with an in-depth focus on prescription drug monitoring programs (PDMPs) and naloxone access efforts.
A set of 10 states (Florida, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, New York, North Carolina, Tennessee, Washington, and West Virginia) was chosen a priori to achieve a varied sample of state policies and timing, as well as population opioid complications. Archival research was conducted to identify state-level policies aimed at the opioid epidemic and semi-structured interviews were conducted with 31 key stakeholders between March and September 2016.
The most frequently mentioned key to success was an identifiable champion instrumental in leading the passage of these policies. The lack of a unified legislature and physician pushback were challenges many states faced in implementing policies.
Champion-led task forces, stakeholders' personal stories garnering buy-in, ongoing education and feedback to PDMP users, and inclusive stakeholder engagement are critical aspects of passing and implementing state policies aimed at combating the opioid epidemic. Engaging all interested stakeholders and providing continuing feedback are ongoing challenges in all states. Leveraging stakeholders' personal stories of how opioids affected their lives helped propel state efforts.