New opioid training helps Arizona health care providers meet medical education requirements

After the Opioid Epidemic Act passed, the Arizona Osteopathic Medical Association (AOMA) received a flood of calls from confused physicians. 

Overwhelmed, AOMA Executive Director Peter Wertheim decided to create the Opioid Prescriber Education Program.

Wertheim said he tried to educate as many physicians as possible about the new laws through speaking engagements and developing and disseminating communication materials, but the efforts were not enough.   

According to the Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS), there have been more than 3,000 suspected opioid deaths in Arizona since June 2015. Wertheim said that number is unacceptable. 

“Health care professionals must do their part, not only to reverse the number of deaths due to prescription opioids but also to be part of the solution by helping identify patients suffering from opioid use disorder and providing them treatment or referral services,” Wertheim said. 

The Opioid Prescriber Education program provides important tools that will help change health care delivery systems. 

“It will help to ensure providers are treating their pain and prescribing opioids in the most safe and effective manner,” Wertheim said. “It clarifies several important issues to prevent confusion about the laws. Each program provides tips and resources to help with compliance and adoption of best practices in clinical settings.” 

The program is completely free and provides physicians with online courses with the latest information about Arizona opioid laws and regulations, prescribing guidelines and treatment options for opioid disorders. 

“While there is an abundance of opioid training until now there was nothing widely available to train providers on the most important aspects of the Arizona laws and prescribing guidelines,” Kristen Will, director of executive and continuing education at Arizona State University’s College of Health Solutions, said. 

ASU’s College of Health Solutions worked with AOMA to develop the course modules to be flexible, self-paced, easy to use and accessible to busy medical professionals while also satisfying guidelines for the three-hour continued medical education units required for all licensed health care professions who prescribe opioids by Arizona law. 

The courses include:

  • Understanding the Opioid Prescribing Laws and Regulations
  • 2018 Arizona Opioid Prescribing Guidelines
  • Medication Assisted Treatment for Opioid Use Disorder

According to Wertheim, Arizona laws and regulations prevent unsafe prescribing but do not address patients’ pain management issues or the best practices to prescribe opioids.

“Arizona’s Opioid Prescribing Guidelines incorporates the most recent evidence, national guidelines, best practices from other states and Arizona data. These guidelines endorsed by all the major health care organizations are covered in one of the online modules,” he added. 

The courses are funded through a State Targeted Response Grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration by the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System (AHCCCS) and ADHS and available to anyone at 

“I am most proud of the hard work by AOMA and ASU on this project to ‘walk this talk’ and do our part to help,” Wertheim said. 

Emily Richardson

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