During Ducey’s term, the opioid epidemic has ravaged Arizona. But although Ducey has taken some steps to address the crisis, his political views have consistently gotten in the way of the most effective response.
- Opioid overdoses killed 790 Arizonans in 2016, representing a 74 percent surge since 2012. [Arizona Republic, 6/5/17]
- Ducey called many times for the repeal of the ACA — despite the fact that the ACA was recognized by experts as a “sea change” when it came to addiction care. For instance, the ACA requirement that mental health and substance abuse treatment receive equal footing with other types of medical care was a tremendous step forward for those needing substance abuse treatment. [Huffington Post, 3/4/14]
- Ducey is actively trying to impose work requirements on Medicaid recipients — despite concerns from many observers, including fellow Republican lawmakers, that doing so could devastate those who depend on Medicaid for addiction services. [Tucson.com, 12/1/2017; POLITICO, 12/3/2017]
- In September, Ducey’s Department of Health Services released a long-awaited set of recommendations for addressing the opioid crisis. Early drafts of the document included recommendations for needle exchange programs, which have been shown to make drug users more likely to seek treatment, as well as reducing rates of HIV and Hepatatis C infections. But despite the advice of experts, the needle exchange recommendation was taken out of the final report — leaving Phoenix’s only needle exchange program continuing to operate under the radar and without funding [KJZZ, 10/3/2017; Kaiser Health News, 12/21/17].
- Meanwhile, Ducey has touted the benefits of an anti-opiate medication called Vivitrol, calling it a “miracle drug” in last year’s State of the State. But Vivitrol is not as well studied as existing drugs like methadone or buprenorphine, and at $1,300 per shot, it is also considerably more expensive. Ducey’s support for Vivitrol could have something to do with the fact that the company that makes Vivitrol, Alkermes, is a partner of ALEC — or it could be because his long-time friend Jim Norton was, until recently, an Alkermes lobbyist. Vivitrol’s aggressive marketing and lobbying practices recently led Senator Kamala Harris to call for an investigation into the company [Phoenix New Times, 11/14/17].