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2:16 AM Wed, Feb. 20th

Mohave County acted too late for voice to be heard on opioid legislation

Supervisors Gary Watson, left, and Buster Johnson

Supervisors Gary Watson, left, and Buster Johnson

KINGMAN – Despite being too late for their voices to be heard, Mohave County Board of Supervisors debated Friday afternoon on a resolution that asked for the state legislature and governor not to fast track an omnibus bill that targeted opioid use.

Although the governor signed the bill into law at 11 a.m. Friday, supervisors considered the resolution presented by Buster Johnson in special session.

Along with asking for more time to research and receive public input before passing the Arizona Opioid Epidemic Act, Johnson wanted more protections for people who legitimately use pain medicine to be included in the bill.

“While I applaud the governor and state legislators for trying to combat the drug addiction and abuse problems we face in this state, I feel this package of bills … focuses more on the prescription drug side of opioids and doesn’t do enough to focus on the real problem, the illegal drugs,” Johnson said.

The majority of the board felt the resolution was pointless because the bill had already been signed into law.

“I agree with a lot of what Supervisor Johnson says, he made some valid points, but this is a done deal,” said Supervisor Lois Wakimoto. “As this (issue) moves (forward) I think (legislators) will be looking at things that need to be dealt with. But, since it has passed and signed by the governor, I think we are a little bit late in doing a resolution.”

Supervisors Hildy Angius and Jean Bishop joined Wakimoto in the majority dissenting vote.

“There’s a certain red herring in our midst and we may well be on the trail of the wrong suspect, leading to a solution that harms the very people having the greatest need, those suffering from day-to-day chronic pain,” Johnson said. “Government always needs to be extremely careful for setting precedent on any issue and not articulate a rush to judgement.”

Johnson argued that by prohibiting many doctors from prescribing pain medicine, people will be forced to go to the few pain management clinics in Mohave County. Along with a small group of specialized pain management doctors scattered throughout the county, there are four clinics open to the public, Johnson said.

This is a problem, he added.

“The pain management clinic in Lake Havasu won’t take certain insurances, so people have to drive to Fort Mohave or Bullhead City, and once they are there they spend hours in the clinics because there are so many people,” Johnson said. “People are so stressed out when they are just trying to take care of a loved one.”

Johnson questioned why the omnibus bill was fast-tracked and provided no time for public input.

“They claim it’s an emergency, but the law doesn’t take effect until 2019,” Johnson said. “Let’s take the time to get it right. Fast legislation on complex issues is not necessarily an accomplishment.”

Although all of the supervisors supported Johnson’s arguments, only Supervisor Gary Watson voted in favor of a county resolution.

“I agree with Supervisor Johnson very much that our older citizens shouldn’t be hampered by additional laws that make it more difficult for them to seek aid and comfort,” Watson said. “One of my fears is this (legislation) is going to impact a number of our seniors. Are we too late voicing our concerns? We very well may be.”