Opioid crisis a key talking point of Gov. Ducey's speech in Tucson

Opioid crisis a key talking point of Gov. Ducey's speech in Tucson

TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - Governor Doug Ducey wants to take an aggressive approach to tackling the opioid crisis in Arizona.

It was a major point of his State of the State address that Ducey made Monday in Phoenix and reiterated Tuesday at the Tucson Convention Center.

He didn't include many details of the proposals he's considering, but the governor said some might be considered controversial because he wants to hold people accountable, whatever their connection to the crisis might be.

"Sometimes when you hold people accountable, that could be controversial, so I think this is the responsibility of government," he said. "We're here to protect public health and public safety."

Dr. Margie Balfour with Connections AZ was in the crowd at the Tucson Convention Center Tuesday morning. She said she liked what she heard, but was hoping for more details about his plans.

"I was really impressed with the time that he spent on that issue and you can tell it's something that is important to him," she said.

It's important to Balfour who works with the Crisis Response Center in Tucson and has recently coordinated with the Pima County Jail to help with treatment for addictions. She said there are several areas where the state is already doing a great job, but she would like to see people in need have easier access to treatment.

"There's a lot going on and we really have a very collaborative community and if everyone puts their mind to this problem, I think that we can lead the state and hopefully lead the nation in addressing this problem," said Balfour.

She credited all the government entities and care providers in Pima County that have worked together to fight the epidemic.

Balfour's most recent project is taking the referral process that typically has an addicted individual waiting days to see a specialist and reducing the wait time to roughly 24 hours.

It's meant to shrink the time frame for a person to potentially fall victim to his or her addiction again.

"Every time you tell somebody to go somewhere else, that's another opportunity for them to fall through the cracks," she said.

Balfour believes Pima County is in a better position than most areas of the country to combat opioid addiction. Now she's hoping the state will tap into the research that's been focusing on overdoses and naloxone.

"Right now the problem is just so big and pervasive," said Balfour. "It's almost unmanageable, but if we can use all of that wonderful data that we're collecting, perhaps we can target some interventions in some of the high-impact populations."

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