Posts Tagged ‘medication’

Poisoning is the Leading Cause of Injury Deaths in Arizona

June 6th, 2013

When you think of the leading cause of deaths related to injuries, the first thing many people will think of is car crashes. While automobile crashes can be deadly—especially when drugs and alcohol are involved—the leading cause of injury-related deaths in Arizona is poisonings.  A new report we recently released shows that there were 1,144 deaths due to poisoning in 2011- accounting for 25% of all the injury-related deaths in the state. 

Poisoning also caused more than 6,900 hospitalizations and more than 12,500 ER visits in 2011. In addition to the human toll these deaths and hospitalizations have on Arizona families, poisonings also carry a financial burden. According to the report, hospital charges for non-fatal poisoning-related inpatient hospitalizations totaled more than $127M and Arizona residents spent a total of 13,822 days hospitalized for these injuries. 

It’s no surprise that the leading cause for poisoning deaths in the state come from easily accessible things like alcohol and prescription drugs. The report shows that the most common causes of poisoning deaths were alcohol, Oxycodone or Hydrocodone, and heroin. At least these deaths are preventable- and we’re working together with our partners in the community to reduce these deaths. 

One project we’re working on is the new Arizona Prescribing Guidelines for Emergency Rooms. The guidelines were developed with several community partners and are intended help ERs establish standard practices for prescribing pain medication. Pain medication is an important tool when it used for medical treatment, but it’s deadly when abused. The guidelines will help medical providers reduce the amount of pain medication in the community, and reduce the access to these drugs to people who may abuse them and suffer from an accidental poisonings.

Hitting Our Mark at Showtime

February 28th, 2013

Last Saturday our Licensing team hit the mark at Showtime- when it matters most.  After hearing that the Fountain Retirement Hotel had put residents on notice it was closing, we immediately became concerned that staff would stop showing up, food and medication would not be given out, and the residents would be turned out into the streets to live. Many of the residents have significant medical and behavioral health needs, and need a caregiver to assist them with things like taking medication and preparing food.  

Our licensing team arrived at the facility immediately after hearing of the situation from the Sheriff’s Office…  and our licensing team pretty much right away called an “immediate jeopardy” (meaning that there was the potential for a real threat to health and safety of the residents).  Our team stayed all afternoon and into the night, working with the facility’s owner and manager to ensure all residents would be safe.  We maintained a strong presence at the facility throughout the weekend, making sure there were proper caregivers, enough food, and that residents were receiving their medication. 

We’re still sending surveyors out twice a day and are working with many other agencies, including AHCCCS, the VA, Adult Protective Services, Magellan, Partners in Recovery, and the Long Term Care Ombudsman’s Program to make sure the residents are finding new homes that will be able to meet their needs.  A huge thanks to Dr. Cara Christ, Kathy McCanna, Richard Young, Ellie Strang, and Jim Tiffany, for responding so effectively and ensuring the Health and Wellness of these Arizonans.  Thanks!

Prescription Painkiller Forum

July 17th, 2012

We’re committed to reducing substance abuse in Arizona and we’re consistently reminding the public to get rid of old medication to reduce the number of unintentional poisonings.  With more Arizonans dying every year from misuse and abuse of prescription painkillers than car crashes- it’s more important than ever to educate health care providers… so we’re hosting a forum to discuss this increasingly urgent public health issue.  About 30% of all prescriptions painkillers are written in emergency rooms…  so we’ve set up the all-day event with partners from emergency rooms, physicians, nurses, hospital management and Indian Health Services Wednesday, July 18th  at the Fiesta Resort Conference Center, 2100 South Priest Drive in Tempe to help increase awareness and identify solutions. Here’s a fact sheet with more info about this increasingly dangerous public health threat.

Public Health Budget

May 9th, 2012
 The Governor signed the budget this week – here’s a look at how some of it affects public health:

Behavioral Health Services for folks that don’t Qualify for Medicaid

The budget that was just signed includes about $39M in new funding for services for folks with a serious mental illness that don’t qualify for Medicaid.  With it, we’ll be able to provide some services like supported employment and housing, peer and family support, living skills training, and health promotion to help folks along their Recovery journey.  We’ll also be expanding the list of medications for the folks with a serious mental illness so it matches the list for folks that qualify for Medicaid.  Our behavioral health team has already begun working closely with the RBHAs, providers, and members/families to plan for the most effective use of this funding.

Newborn Screening

Our newborn screening program has been running in the red for the last couple of years- despite the fact that we’ve squeezed just about every efficiency out of the program and are collecting more than 95% of our service fees.  The current screening fee is $30 for the 1st (hospital) screen and $40 for the 2nd (which happens in the pediatric office a couple of weeks after birth).  These fees haven’t been raised in several years- meanwhile the instruments and reagents we use have become increasingly expensive.  We’ve been supplementing the program with Title V funds that really should be used for other more effective purposes. The budget that was just signed allows us to set new fees for the 2nd screen in Rule…  and we’ll be starting that process shortly.

County Contribution toward Hospital Patients and Residents

The “Budget Reconciliation Bill” or BRBs included specific instructions regarding how much counties are obligated to pay (50%) for the patients and residents at the Hospital and ACPTC (the sexually violent person’s unit).

ASH Administration building

Hospital Operating Fund

Despite all our efforts to reduce overtime, cut shift overlap, streamline services and other efficiency measures- our hospital operating fund was headed for big trouble next fiscal year- partly because the Hospital Fund (which had provided funds to operate the Hospital) went dry. The state budget that was just signed rescued us from needing to cut our staffing ratio’s to below Licensing standards (which would have put us in jeopardy of losing Medicare and Medicaid funds).  Whew.

Turning 50

November 3rd, 2011

Two things happen when you turn 50.  First, you start getting invitations to join the AARP in the mail every couple of weeks (until they give up).  Second, your doctor tells you it’s time for your colonoscopy screening.  That’s the one that puts a lump in your throat.  At 51, I finally bit the bullet and got my colonoscopy screen- and it may have saved my life.

Here’s what to expect.  If you have anxiety, rest assured that it’s not too bad and definitely worth it. You’ve probably heard that the preparation part is the worst, and that’s true.  But, it’s not all that bad especially now that they have a formula that you can’t taste.  You do need to drink lots of Gatorade or something like that (with the added laxative).  The last couple of glasses are the hardest to swallow because you’re saturated but it’s not that bad.  The purging part takes a total of 6 hours or so, but you can still get other things done around the house.  Since you’re drinking alot, heating it up to body temperature and then expelling it- you do get cold, so dress warm.

It’s best to schedule your appointment first thing in the morning so you don’t go hungry all day on the day of your screening.  They’ll take your vital signs and give you an IV for the medication you’ll get during the procedure when you arrive.  When they roll you back to the room, they’ll have a short conversation with you and then start the “twilight” medication, which kind of half-way knocks you out.  You’re awake for the procedure, but you can’t really tell what’s going on.  The actual procedure itself usually takes just a short time; mine lasted 11 minutes.  When you come out, they’ll tell you the results and then you can go home (someone has to drive you).

I turned out to have something called a polyp (1 cm), which is a benign growth.  If you have one, they’ll remove it during the procedure with this lasso tool.  Not every polyp turns into cancer, but every colon cancer starts as a polyp.  And since colon cancer is the 2nd leading cause of cancer death, it’s really important to find and remove polyps before they turn into cancer.

Anyway, this is an important screening and it’s not nearly as bad as you might think… so if you’re over 50 and you haven’t done it yet, get it over with.  Don’t fret.  It’s not that bad and it’s definitely worth it.

Eat Well Be Well

February 16th, 2010

Throughout history, mankind’s future was largely determined by fate.  Infectious diseases like Diphtheria and Smallpox could wipe out an entire family in just a few days. People were vulnerable to outside threats ranging from a lack of clean drinking water to poor sanitation to gaps in environmental infrastructure that led to a host of infectious diseases.  Science had not discovered medications to help prevent or treat infectious diseases; people weren’t aware of the direct link between lifestyle and health; and the lack of safe transportation and workplace safety standards led to all sorts of accidents that took lives.

But it is very different for us.  We control our own destiny.  We’ve developed effective public health interventions over the last 100 years like vaccine, environmental engineering, vehicle safety, sanitation and the like.  The things that threaten your health today are things that you have control over- and they’re pretty simple.

Stay physically active.  Make better food choices.  Drink & eat in moderation. Don’t smoke.  Get vaccinated.   Buckle up and drive sober.  Look both ways before crossing the street.  Talk to your doctor about routine health screenings.  Monitor and control your blood pressure & blood sugar.

Sounds simple enough, right?  The problem is that many of us slip into sloppy routines.  We don’t do the simple things that can make a big difference in how we age and feel day to day.  But the great thing is that it’s never too late to grab your bootstraps and clean up your lifestyle.  That’s where Arizona’s public health system can be your partner.

During the next year, we’ll be providing simple information you can use to update your family’s lifestyle.  Our 2010 Champion for Change program (at can help. By taking one step at a time, you can make lasting changes to improve your family’s health. To help you get started, we’ve added resources and tools to help you to shape your family’s food consumption in a positive way, and help you to take positive steps toward increasing your physical activity.

Here are some examples of how to get started.  A recent study found we can save thousands of lives in Arizona every year just by reducing how much salt we eat.  By learning to read the Nutrition Facts, paying attention to the Sodium part of the label, and incorporating sodium levels into your purchasing decision, you can cut way back on your family’s salt consumption- and save their heart to boot.  You can also sign up to receive a “healthy recipe a week” in your Inbox by joining our growing list of folks making the commitment to improve their family’s health at  Even putting a white board up in your kitchen and asking your family to track their physical activity can help. And, of course, if you need help kicking the habit you can visit the website.