AG Paxton Launches New Dose of Reality
Website to Educate Texans About the
Dangers of Opioid Abuse
AUSTIN, TX – In his office’s latest initiative to combat the nation’s opioid crisis, Attorney General Ken Paxton today launched Dose of Reality, a new comprehensive website to inform and educate Texans about the dangers of misusing prescription painkillers.
Attorney General Paxton was joined at a press conference by Department of State Health Services Commissioner Dr. John Hellerstedt and Health and Human Services Executive Commissioner Courtney N. Phillips.
“The misuse and abuse of prescription opioids cost lives and devastate Texas families in every region of our state,” Attorney General Paxton said. “Opioids such as OxyContin and hydrocodone are prescribed by doctors to treat moderate to severe pain, but have serious risks and side effects. When patients are not well informed, these drugs can inflict far more pain than they prevent. The Dose of Reality website is intended to give Texans the information they need to avoid those unintended consequences. My office will continue to do everything it can to protect Texans from the opioid crisis.”
Dose of Reality provides individuals, patients, health care providers, teachers, coaches and others with opioid-related resources in one location, allowing for quick and easy access to vital information.
The new website includes details on approaches to preventing opioid abuse and addiction, proper pain management, safe storage of prescription painkillers and guidelines on responding to an opioid overdose. It also features a statewide take back map of locations that accept prescription opioids for safe disposal.
Opioids are a family of drugs that include prescription painkillers such as OxyContin as well as illegal drugs like heroin.
Each day, 115 Americans die of opioid overdoses.
Nationwide, there were 42,249 opioid overdoses in 2016, including 1,375 opioid-related deaths in Texas.
The death toll attributed to opioids in the U.S. has quadrupled over the last two decades.
In 2017, Attorney General Paxton and a bipartisan group of 40 other state attorneys general initiated an investigation into whether companies that manufacture and distribute prescription opioids engaged in unlawful practices. Last May, Attorney General Paxton filed a major consumer protection lawsuit against Purdue Pharma for violating the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act involving the company’s prescription opioids, including OxyContin.
The nationally acclaimed and award-winning Dose of Reality website was conceived by the Wisconsin Department of Justice (DOJ), in September 2015 provided to Texas, Arkansas, Georgia, Maine, Minnesota and Nebraska at no cost. Attorney General Paxton’s office partnered with the Wisconsin DOJ, Texas Health and Human Services Commission and the Texas Department of State Health Services on content development for DoseofReality.Texas.gov
New Mexico Attorney General wants to handle fatal Child Abuse cases
Attorney General Hector Balderas wants New Mexico lawmakers to expand his authority by allowing him to take over child abuse cases resulting in death without having to wait for a district attorney to decline to prosecute, dismiss the case or ask for his help.
Why? Balderas said in a phone interview Friday that his office is well equipped to handle such cases and he wants to be able to step in and help children whenever its resources are needed, “like the Navy SEALs.”
“When prosecutors have referred complex, tragic cases to us, we’ve had above-average success rates,” Balderas said.
Balderas said his office is uniquely equipped to handle complicated child abuse cases because his staff includes victim advocates, investigators, lawyers and appellate attorneys, meaning he could handle all aspects of a case without having to rely on other agencies to bring a case to trail.
“In every community, there are sometimes unhealthy tensions between law enforcement, child protective agencies and the DA’s Office,” Balderas said. “But we are one unit. We collaborate at every stage. We are always working together.”
Under current laws, Balderas said, he has to wait for the prosecutor in the judicial district where a case arises to either ask for his help, dismiss a case or decline to prosecute before the Attorney General’s Office can jump in.
“To me, that’s just not sound policy when we are in a child abuse crisis,” Balderas said. “Now is the time to make the attorney general an equal partner. I shouldn’t have to ask for permission. It shouldn’t be a failure in the system that triggers our ability to intervene.”
Balderas said district attorneys usually work well with his office but sometimes don’t agree on the best way to attack a case.
He pointed to a recent high-profile child abuse death in the Taos area in which authorities say a 3-year-old boy abducted by his father from the child’s mother’s home in Georgia was found dead after being denied medications and instead subjected to Islamic prayer rituals for healing. Balderas said that case is an example of one that could have benefited from his office’s expertise.
The attorney general said he offered 8th Judicial District Attorney Donald Gallegos his help at the outset of the Taos County case, but Gallegos didn’t consult with him until after a judge denied a motion to hold the defendants without bail while they await trial.
“I offered meaningful support and strategy so they could win and the community would get a timely and aggressive prosecution,” Balderas said. “I don’t believe it’s collaboration when you are only calling after a loss or setback.”
Gallegos did not return a call seeking comment for this story.
In other cases, Balderas said, the state Children, Youth and Families Department has made investigative missteps that affected the outcome.
CYFD Secretary Monique Jacobson said Friday she didn’t know enough about Balderas’ proposal to comment at length she welcomes the chance to partner with Balderas or any other law enforcement agency on improving front-end investigations to better protect the state’s children. Jacobson added that her agency might not be affected if the law were changed because CYFD doesn’t participate in criminal investigations.
A spokesman for Second Judicial District Attorney Raúl Torrez in Albuquerque referred questions to New Mexico District Attorney’s Association President Dianna Luce.
Luce, a prosecutor in southeastern New Mexico, said in an email that Balderas had not contacted her organization about proposed legislation and that she cannot comment in her capacity as association president until she knows more.
“As the elected district attorney in the Fifth Judicial District,” she wrote, “I’m opposed to giving blanket authority to another entity outside of my district. Our prosecutors have experience in prosecuting these types of cases and have successfully prosecuted child abuse resulting in death cases.”
In Santa Fe, First Judicial District Attorney Marco Serna said in an email Friday he also hadn’t seen the proposed law change and wanted a chance to discuss it with Balderas and the District Attorney’s Association to see what exactly the attorney general proposes.
“I can’t speak for all district attorneys in our state,” Serna wrote, “but I would anticipate opposition to the Attorney General’s position, considering each DA is elected to their respective districts.”
Serna added that he has a “great working relationship” with Balderas’ office and will continue to request assistance or pull resources from the Attorney General’s Office when needed.
Balderas said he is working to draft legislation and find a legislative sponsor.
Number of Opioid-Addicted Women
Giving Birth Quadruples
By Dennis Thompson
The number of pregnant women addicted to opioids as they give birth has more than quadrupled since 1999, a disturbing new report shows.
In 2014, for every 1,000 hospital deliveries, 6.5 were mothers who arrived at the hospital with opioid use disorder, up from 1.5 per 1,000 in 1999, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention researchers found.
This increase is likely linked to America’s ongoing opioid epidemic, said study co-author Jean Ko, an epidemiologist with the CDC’s division of reproductive health.
“With the opioid overdose epidemic, it’s natural to see increases in opioid use disorder among the general population,” Ko said. “Our data tell us that women presenting for labor and delivery are no different.
Opioid use during pregnancy has been tied to maternal death during delivery, stillbirth and preterm birth, the CDC researchers noted.
Even babies born healthy might have to go through opioid withdrawal, a condition known as neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS).
Babies with NAS can experience tremors, convulsions, seizures, difficulty feeding, breathing problems, fever, diarrhea and trouble sleeping, according to the March of Dimes.
The CDC study used data from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, focusing on 28 states with at least three years of data available for analysis.
Between 1999 and 2014, all 28 states saw significant increases in opioid-addicted pregnant women entering labor.
Vermont and West Virginia had the most cases of opioid-affected pregnancies in 2014. Vermont had 48.6 cases for every 1,000 deliveries; West Virginia had 32.1 cases per 1,000. On the low-end, Nebraska had 1.2 cases per 1,000 and the District of Columbia had 0.7 per 1,000.
The average annual rate increases were highest in Maine, New Mexico, Vermont and West Virginia. Those states all had growth of more than 2.5 cases per 1,000 each year — six times higher than the national average of 0.4 cases per 1,000.
The states with the lowest increases were California and Hawaii, with fewer than 0.1 new cases per 1,000 each year.
The new information “is very alarming and is a call to arms regarding this national health crisis,” said Dr. Mitchell Kramer, chairman of obstetrics and gynecology at Huntington Hospital in Huntington, N.Y.
“We are well aware of the association of opioid exposure and abuse with adverse pregnancy outcomes including preterm labor and delivery, stillbirth, neonatal withdrawal syndrome and maternal mortality,” he said.
But Ko said concerns about babies with NAS should not dissuade pregnant women from taking medicines appropriately prescribed to treat chronic medical disorders, or from taking medications like methadone or buprenorphine that aid in addiction treatment.
The CDC recommends a number of strategies for countering this dangerous trend:
Making sure opioids are prescribed appropriately.
Strengthening state-level prescription drug monitoring programs.
Requiring substance abuse screening at the first prenatal visit, as recommended by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
Ensuring that pregnant women with opioid use disorder have access to addiction therapy, and that new opioid-addicted mothers receive postpartum care that includes mental health and substance abuse treatment.
Kramer pointed out that “the implications of this startling CDC data are that coordinated national, state and provider efforts are necessary to prevent, monitor and treat opioid use disorder among reproductive-aged and pregnant women.”
The report was published in the Aug. 10 issue of the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.