Mohave County doctors are prescribing opioid medications at high rates

U.S. Senator candidate Kelli Ward of Lake Havasu City says the opioid epidemic in Mohave County is difficult to pinpoint, but it shouldn’t be left in the hands bureaucrats.

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U.S. Senator candidate Kelli Ward of Lake Havasu City says the opioid epidemic in Mohave County is difficult to pinpoint, but it shouldn’t be left in the hands bureaucrats.

Mohave County, like the rest of Arizona, continues to grapple with the opioid epidemic.

It was revealed two weeks ago that four Mohave County doctors are among the top in Arizona to prescribe opioids, according to an Arizona Republic article.

Of the top 15 prescribing doctors in the state, Mohave County ranked first, second, fourth and sixth, the newspaper reported.

“The top-prescribing doctor from Mohave County wrote 20,232 prescriptions that amounted to more than 1.9 million pills – about 7,350 pills a day … The second top-prescribing doctor, also from Mohave County, wrote 15,989 prescriptions, amounting to nearly 1.6 million pills,” reported Yvonne Wingett Sanchez. “Mohave County was also home to the doctors who ranked fourth and sixth. Those physicians wrote prescriptions for about 2.4 million pills combined.”

The news outlet based its findings on data collected by the controlled-substance monitoring program under the Arizona Department of Health Services, which did not include names or specific locations of each doctor.

Sanchez did not share her data, which she says she obtained through a public records request with Governor Doug Ducey’s office. Ducey’s office has not yet responded to a similar request for The Daily Miner.

Kingman and Lake Havasu City each had between five and nine opioid-related deaths last year, according to data on the Arizona Department of Health Services’ website. The data showed that Bullhead City had between 10 and 16 opioid-related deaths last year, which was the highest in the county.

“The opioid problem throughout the nation is a public health crisis. This is a problem that, in my opinion, has to be addressed from many different angles and many different types of organizations,” stated Bullhead City Police Chief Brian Williamson. “Like many drug problems that the nation has faced over the years, this is not a problem that we can arrest our way out of. However, like all crises faced by the community, the police department does play a role in the management and hopefully elimination of this crisis.”

Williamson added that his department is developing a plan for its officers to carry and administer Narcan – a brand name for Naloxone, which is used to block the effects of opioids, especially in the event of an overdose. Kingman Police Department was the first department in Arizona to carry and administer Narcan.

Kelli Ward, a Lake Havasu City physician who served in the Arizona House of Representatives and is now running for U.S. Senate, said the reasons behind Mohave County’s high numbers are difficult to pinpoint, and that it’s also a problem in other parts of the state and country.

Sanchez reported that nine of the top 15 doctors were from Maricopa County and two were from Pima County.

Ward said better policing through medical boards rather than “too much government intervention” would be an effective way to help resolve the opioid epidemic.

“I don’t think government bureaucrats or elected officials understand the nuances of medical practice, and I think that’s where the danger comes … when somebody who has no medical knowledge or very limited medical knowledge attempts to determine how patients should be or should not be treated,” she said. “We have a mechanism to police our own in place right now. I think what we, as members of the community, should be collaborating with one another so that we are not getting to a place where people are over utilizing controlled substances.”