SYLACAUGA, Ala. – Attorney General Steve Marshall visited a local hospital in the Marble City on Monday morning to discuss the state’s growing opioid crisis. The event was organized bu the Sylacauga Chamber of Commerce.
The state’s opioid problem is a subject that Marshall has taken head on during his time as attorney general of Alabama. His focus on the issue is not on those who you opioids, but on the source.
Marshall believes opioids are too easily prescribed to patients, and opioids are far too easily accessible for those who want to use and abuse prescription drugs.
A main issue in the mass prescription of opioids to patients lies in how some hospitals and physicians are evaluated. Marshall said many are evaluated on surveys from patients. He explained when people come in to get an opioid prescription for the wrong reason and get turned away, that patient will grade the healthcare facility with a low score. That, in turn, can be devastating for physicians and hospitals. For receiving a low score, healthcare practices can, and most times will, receive less reimbursement. In turn, doctors are prescribing opioids to patients in order to receive a high survey score.
“I’ve heard people say, ‘If I want to get a high score on my survey, I need to give them all the pain medication they want.'” Marshall said. ‘That’s bad practice and that’s bad medicine, but yet we’ve institutionalized this idea of giving doctors an incentive of giving someone an opioid when they shouldn’t get one.”
Marshall also wants to take the subjective factors out of prescribing opioids. Today, doctors take into account people’s perspective on their pain with a 1-10 scale. Marshall wants to rid this relative pain factor from the process and bring consistency across the board when prescribing opioids.
“We have to evaluate as a threshold matter if pain should be a vital sign,” Marshall said. “Those who want medicine for the wrong reasons know if they give a high number that’s a trigger for them to get what they want.”
While visiting the SylacaugaNews.com newsroom on Monday, Marshall also commented on other matters he is concerned with across the state. School safety being one of those topics.
Marshall said it is impossible to legislate against evil, but wants to make sure everything is being done to make schools as safe as possible. He said the state has started studying and sharing the best plans and practices implemented across the state and are encouraging others to follow suit.
Recently Nichols-Lawson Middle School was honored by Marshall for its dedication to school safety. “When we know people are doing it well and see good practices we need to proclaim that far and wide, because children are our most precious resource,” he said.
According to Marshall, school resource officers are vital to school safety, but SROs have to implement the plan that is in place for SROs to be effective in the school. Marshall said his office encourages every school to have an SRO in place going forward, and continue to evaluate where the state stands with school safety.