Opioid Help Line Launches in Arizona

The Arizona Department of Health Services and the Poison and Drug Information Centers of Arizona teamed up earlier this year to offer the nation’s first 24/7 opioid helpline for health-care providers and Arizona residents.

The Arizona Opioid Assistance and Referral (OAR) Line is free and connects the public and Arizona health-care providers with experts, including physicians, nurses, pharmacists and genetic counselors—who provide resources for patients with acute and chronic pain, acute opioid complications or opioid withdrawal, and offer patient-specific consultation in real-time. Experts also are available to help with safe prescribing limits, identify dangerous drug combinations and provide referrals to statewide treatment centers for opioid addiction.

The helpline is operated by Arizona’s two poison centers, the Arizona Poison and Drug Information Center at the University of Arizona College of Pharmacy in Tucson and the Banner Poison Drug and Information Center in Phoenix.

“This new resource allows callers to speak with subject matter experts, judgment-free, to get support for their own patients regarding opioid use,” said Daniel Brooks, MD, medical director for the Banner Poison and Drug Information Center. “The opioid epidemic is very concerning, and this helpline can be a step in right direction to offer guidance and assistance to professionals and to the public.”

Since the helpline’s launch in March 2018, staff members have received more than 1,100 opioid-related calls. In addition to providing opioid-related information and resources, OAR Line staff members routinely follow-up with patients directly to confirm their well-being and maintain contact with the referred service providers to address new or additional concerns.

“Preventing opioid overdoses and deaths in our state needs a multifaceted approach, and the new helpline is a major step forward as it will give medical providers immediate access to experts who can help to ensure safe prescribing and to identify treatment options for patients, which may or may not include opioids,” said Cara Christ, MD, director of the Arizona Department of Health Services. “No two patients are the same and treatments vary based on individual needs, so we need to make sure we are providing tailored resources to our medical community.”

The helpline stems from Gov. Doug Ducey’s Opioid Epidemic Act legislation and is one of several initiatives to support Arizona health-care providers managing patients with chronic pain. The Arizona Department of Health Services has recorded nearly 1,700 suspected opioid deaths and almost 11,200 suspected opioid overdoses since June 15, 2017.

“The great thing about this helpline is that we are using an existing, reliable resource – the Arizona Poison and Drug Information Centers, which already provide vital poison exposure and medication consultations,” said Keith Boesen, PharmD, director for the Arizona Poison and Drug Information Center. “Hopefully, this model can be replicated in other states to address the opioid epidemic or be replicated to assist with other substance issues.”

To reach the OAR Line call 1-888-688-4222 or visit www.oarline.com for more information.