KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

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Surge In Fatal Overdoses Overwhelms West Virginia’s Burial Program

In other news on the nation's opioid epidemic, a New Hampshire hospital sees benefits after telling surgeons to cut back on prescribing painkillers, dentists in New Jersey also curb the use of opioids and an Ohio coroner works to fight the state's heroin crisis.

The Washington Post: Drugs Are Killing So Many People In West Virginia That The State Can’t Keep Up With The Funerals
Deaths in West Virginia have overwhelmed a state program providing burial assistance for needy families for at least the fifth year in a row, causing the program to be nearly out of money four months before the end of the fiscal year, according to the state's Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR). Funeral directors in West Virginia say the state's drug overdose epidemic, the worst in the nation, is partly to blame. (Ingraham, 3/7)

The Washington Post: Surgeons Were Told To Stop Prescribing So Many Painkillers. The Results Were Remarkable.
The head of general surgery at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center had a remarkably simple idea not long ago: What if the department suggested that surgeons limit prescriptions of narcotic pain pills to a specific number for different kinds of operations? The results were dramatic: The number of pills prescribed by doctors for five common outpatient surgeries dropped by 53 percent, and patients didn't consume all the pills they were given, according to a study that will be published this week in the journal Annals of Surgery. (Bernstein, 3/7)

Kaiser Health News: Dentists Work To Ease Patients’ Pain With Fewer Opioids
Firsts can be life-changing — think about your first kiss, your first time behind the wheel of a car. But what about the first time you got a prescription for a narcotic? James Hatzell, from Collingswood, N.J., is now a technology officer for a college addiction treatment program. He didn’t realize it at the time, but that spring day of his junior year of high school — seven years ago — was a pivotal moment in his life. (Gordon, 3/8)

Columbus Dispatch: Franklin County Coroner Spars With Politicians Over Heroin Fight
Franklin County Coroner Anahi Ortiz is concerned that two of the area's most powerful politicians want to take the central role in a task force she helped create to fight the heroin epidemic... Franklin County Commissioner John O'Grady and Columbus Mayor Andrew J. Ginther have scheduled a meeting for Thursday with other public officials and agencies to organize greater involvement in the heroin-addiction battle. (Perry, 3/8)

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