February 20, 2019

Combating the opioid crisis with drug disposal sites

Kaiser Permanente Northwest has awarded a $200,000 grant to Lines for Life.

PORTLAND, Ore. — Kaiser Permanente has awarded a $200,000 grant to Lines for Life, a regional nonprofit dedicated to preventing substance abuse and suicide and promoting mental wellness, for an initiative that will combat the opioid epidemic in Oregon and Southwest Washington by increasing the number of safe drug disposal sites.

"Leftover prescription painkillers are fueling the opioid crisis," said Dwight Holton, CEO of Lines for Life. "We need to make it easy for people to get rid of their unused painkillers. Ideally, they should be able to drop them off in the same place they received their prescription, yet today less than 2.5 percent of the locations eligible to collect medications, such as pharmacies and hospitals, are actually doing so."

The initiative, Safe Disposal for Safe Communities, will focus on 7 Oregon communities facing high rates of opioid prescribing and other significant health disparities. The communities will be selected in the first phase of the initiative.

Through Kaiser Permanente's funding, Lines for Life will:

  • Implement pharmacy-based drug disposal at Federally Qualified Health Centers and independent pharmacies in the 7 communities.
  • Develop a medication disposal strategy that can be replicated throughout the region.
  • Create strategies to better educate the public about the importance of safe drug disposal, based on interviews and listening sessions conducted in these communities.

"Across our entire organization, from our physicians and pharmacists to dentists and researchers, we're working to find meaningful solutions to this public health crisis," said Ruth Williams-Brinkley, regional president for Kaiser Foundation Health Plan and Hospitals of the Northwest. "Over the last 5 years, we reduced the number of members who were prescribed high-dose opioids by more than 75 percent. It's critical that we also get unused drugs out of people's medicine cabinets, so they don't fall into the wrong hands."

According to the Oregon Health Authority, Oregon has one of the highest rates of prescription opioid misuse in the nation; more drug poisoning deaths involve prescription opioids than any other type of drug, including alcohol, methamphetamines, heroin and cocaine. In addition, many teens report that they have misused prescription medication, and studies show that most teens get these medications from friends or family members, due in part to the fact that many patients store leftover medications in their home instead of disposing of them.

In a 2017 report, “ How People Obtain the Prescription Pain Relievers They Misuse”, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration found that “regardless of age, gender or type of user, most people who misuse prescription pain relievers obtained the drugs from a friend or relative.”

Kaiser Permanente's approach to addressing the opioid epidemic

Through education and support for patients and prescribers, Kaiser Permanente has been working to address the opioid epidemic for nearly a decade, with multidisciplinary initiatives designed to:

  • Limit opioid prescriptions overall, prescribing them only when it's safe and appropriate.
  • Provide effective, patient-centered, nonopioid pain management alternatives.
  • Prescribe lower doses and shorter courses when opioids are medically necessary.
  • Help patients who take opioid medications taper down to safer, lower doses or to discontinue use altogether.
  • Eliminate brand-name opioids whenever possible to help prevent diversion into communities.

Kaiser Permanente has reduced our members' risk for opioid abuse and addiction through improved prescribing and dispensing policies, monitoring and follow-up processes, and coordination across departments and specialties.

We have done groundbreaking work to reduce opioid use after surgeries, including dental procedures, and have dramatically reduced opioid prescriptions to children following tonsillectomies.

The Portland-based Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research also received a major grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse to examine the role of opioid use in suicide risk and develop better tools to help clinicians identify patients who are at highest risk.

Kaiser Permanente members have the option of either returning unused medication at the kiosks located in several facilities or returning them using the mailer envelopes provided at all Kaiser Permanente Northwest pharmacies.

Learn more about Kaiser Permanente's approach to addressing the opioid epidemic.

About Lines for Life

Lines for Life is a regional nonprofit dedicated to preventing substance abuse and suicide and promoting mental wellness. It is taking the lead on preventing prescription drug abuse by convening the  Oregon Coalition for the Responsible Use of Meds.

Lines for Life works locally and nationally to shape the policies that impact its mission. It works with legislators and community partners to create sustainable, positive changes in the way organizations and communities respond to substance abuse, suicide, mental wellness, and crisis. Today, Lines for Life is working to reduce prescription drug misuse, abuse, and overdose through expanded pharmacy drug disposal programs. Historically, it has worked to limit teen exposure to drugs and alcohol, minimize access to the chemicals used to manufacture illegal drugs, and more.

About Kaiser Permanente

Kaiser Permanente is committed to helping shape the future of health care. We are recognized as one of America's leading health care providers and not-for-profit health plans. Founded in 1945, Kaiser Permanente has a mission to provide high-quality, affordable health care services and to improve the health of our members and the communities we serve. We currently serve more than 12.2 million members in eight states and the District of Columbia. Care for members and patients is focused on their total health and guided by their personal Permanente Medical Group physicians, specialists and team of caregivers. Our expert and caring medical teams are empowered and supported by industry-leading technology advances and tools for health promotion, disease prevention, state-of-the-art care delivery and world-class chronic disease management. Kaiser Permanente is dedicated to care innovations, clinical research, health education and the support of community health.