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New Report Recommends Policies for Addressing Iowa's Opioid Crisis

pills in a bottle

A new report from the University of Iowa makes policy recommendations for reducing prescription opioid abuse and overdose deaths.

Carri Casteel, UI associate professor and lead author of the report, says Iowa's prescription opioid overdose death rate is lower than in many other states, but it has quadrupled in the past 20 years. 

"Even though we do have lower rates, we are seeing trends that are similar to what we're seeing nationally," Casteel says. "So in a way, that puts us in a pretty good position to be a little more proactive and think more about primary prevention." 

The recommendations include more education for physicians and pharmacists, making the Iowa Prescription Monitoring Program (PMP) more effective, and encouraging or requiring insurance coverage for substance abuse treatment. Stakeholders also want more reliable, up-to-date overdose and prescription data that can be shared among multiple organizations. 

Casteel says the 38 stakeholders involved in crafting the recommendations come from a diverse range of professions.

"And I think among them there’s a great interest in working together to address the opioid crisis, not working individually or in their own expert silos," Casteel says. 

The report also finds Montgomery, Webster and Harrison counties have the highest prescription opioid overdose death rates. Heroin overdose deaths in Iowa have increased more than nine-fold in the past 15 years. 

Casteel will present the report later this month to a legislative committee charged with studying the opioid epidemic. The committee will then make recommendations to the governor and general assembly by Nov. 15. 

Policies related to these recommendations have come up in the Iowa Legislature, but they have not passed.

Katarina Sostaric is IPR's State Government Reporter