By Alan Johnson
Ohio is adding a weapon to its arsenal in fighting drug abuse by providing doctors and pharmacists with a one-click link to the state opiate tracking system.
Ohio will become the first state to integrate its database, the Ohio Automated Rx Reporting System (OARRS), with electronic medical records already maintained by doctors and pharmacists.
Gov. John Kasich announced today that the state will spend up to $1.5 million on the database linkup as the latest tool utilized by state officials to combat an epidemic of overdose deaths, which rose 17.6 percent last year to 2,482.
"The message to Ohioans, despite the fact that we still see a tsunami of drugs, is that we're not going to give up in this state until we win more and more battles, maybe ultimately the war," Kasich said at a news conference at the Kroger pharmacy in the Brewery District in Columbus. Kroger linked with the system earlier this year.
The change, while welcome, comes too late for Tonda DaRe, of Carrollton, Ohio, in eastern Ohio, who lost her 21-year-old daughter, Holly Noel Jenkins, to a heroin overdose three years ago this month. She spoke at the news conference as Kasich stood by her side, his arm around the grieving mother.
"I hope this helps so many other people," DaRe said, barely holding back tears. "I don't want any other parent to go through what I went through and am still going through."
"We've got the save these kids," she added.
The OARRS system was established in 2006 to better track prescriptions for all drugs, particularly narcotics that are frequently subject to abuse. It can flag patients who are "doctor shopping" to get more prescriptions, as well as doctors who are over-prescribing addictive drugs.
State officials cited OARRS statistics showing Ohio doctors prescribed 40 million fewer doses of opiates in 2014 than they did the year before. The database also showed a dramatic drop in reported doctor-shopping to 960 last year compared to more than 3,000 in 2009.
Sarah Burke, a pharmacist at the Kroger store, said the "one-click" link to the state OARRS system is "an essential tool for us ... This is a win for health care in Ohio."
(c)2015 The Columbus Dispatch (Columbus, Ohio)