Spotlight on Mississippi: Ending the Opioid Epidemic

Prepared in partnership with the American Medical Association and the Mississippi State Medical Association

Mississippi’s opioid epidemic follows national trends. Even as the number of opioid prescriptions dispensed in the state has steadily dropped, deaths due to opioid-related overdoses have continued to increase. Governor Phil Bryant has led state efforts to address the epidemic through an August 2017 executive order that encouraged the use of naloxone by law enforcement officers, and by convening an Opioid and Heroin Study Task Force comprising representatives from state agencies and medical and dental boards, providers, and county representatives. Mississippi has not been as active as some other states in expanding access to medication-assisted treatment (MAT) and other substance use disorder (SUD) treatment. Most notably, it has not expanded Medicaid to low-income adults as allowed under federal law, leaving many people who are affected by the epidemic without coverage.

While Mississippi likely cannot end its epidemic in the absence of expansion or an alternative strategy for providing all of its residents with coverage, there are potentially promising public-and private-sector initiatives that offer building blocks to address it.

A new spotlight analysis, developed by Manatt Health in partnership with the American Medical Association (AMA) and the Mississippi State Medical Association (MSMA), focuses on two agencies—the Mississippi Division of Medicaid and the Mississippi Insurance Department—and provides a detailed analysis of what the state has accomplished in three areas: substance use disorder treatment, pain management and harm reduction. Highlights include analyses of Mississippi’s:

  • Expanding naloxone access. The state’s efforts to expand access to naloxone, an overdose-reversing drug, saved more than 2,000 lives in 2017. MSMA supported the state policy of co-prescribing naloxone, a statewide standing order that allows people to obtain naloxone without a patient-specific prescription. The state Department of Mental Health has distributed thousands of doses of naloxone and provided education to nearly 4,000 law enforcement officers in 104 different agencies in 49 counties.
  • Community engagement. StandUp Mississippi was designed to help reduce the stigma of SUD and promote overdose prevention across multiple agencies, including the Department of Mental Health, Department of Public Safety, Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics, Mississippi Board of Pharmacy, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Mississippi Department of Human Services, and U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.

The spotlight analysis also makes recommendations on where Mississippi can build on its successes. Along with expanding Medicaid, the state could increase access to MAT and evaluate the public health effects of the epidemic in order to target resources more effectively. It also can support training to encourage more providers to become waivered, develop outreach programs to connect individuals to existing treatment options, and cover all clinically appropriate forms of MAT without prior authorization.

The Mississippi paper is one of a series of in-depth analyses, produced by Manatt and the AMA, of four states’ responses to the opioid epidemic, intended to identify best practices and next steps to address the crisis. Other analyses have focused on the efforts of Pennsylvania, Colorado and North Carolina to end the opioid epidemic.

Click here to read the full report.

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