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Despite intense national attention, opioid overdose deaths continue to climb, with devastating impact on communities, the cost of healthcare, and our overall economy. Each day, about 13 Californians die from a drug overdose, and opioids—primarily prescription pain relievers, heroin, and fentanyl—drive half of those deaths, with methamphetamine a growing threat as well. Smart Care California is promoting practical, evidence-based strategies for health plans and providers, using a four-part strategy: 1) prevent new starts on long-term opioids, 2) manage pain safely, 3) treat addiction effectively, and 4) promote harm reduction, ultimately with the goal of reducing opioid overdose deaths in California.

Opioid Safety Resource Catalog (California Health Care Foundation)



Patients, families, and caregivers

Easy-to-read information on the safe use of prescription painkillers in both print and interactive formats. Key resources include fact sheets on side effects of opioids and alternative ways to manage pain. Providers, payers, and purchasers can distribute these resources to patients and consumers.

Safe Pain Medicine Prescribing in Emergency Departments and Urgent Care Centers (Safe Med LA)

Opioid Safety Coalitions Network (Center for Health Leadership & Practice)

Prescription Painkillers 5 surprising facts (Consumer Reports) 

Medicines to Relieve Chronic Pain (Consumer Reports) 


Evidence-based guidelines, best practices, and training materials for physicians and other health care providers on safe opioid prescribing. Practical tools such as Patient Medication Agreements engage patients in conversations about opioid treatment.

California Quality Collaborative Accelerating Opioid Safety Ambulatory Care Toolkit

Turn the Tide: Prescribing Opioids for Chronic Pain (America’s Physician Groups)

Tapering Toolkit Provider Resource (Partnership HealthPlan of California)

Clinician Consultation Center (University of California San Francisco)

Opioid Stewardship and Chronic Pain: A Guide for Primary Care Providers (San Francisco Department of Public Health and California Department of Public Health)

Payers and purchasers

Concrete actions for payers and purchasers seeking to effectively manage opioid utilization. Key resources include a minimum insurance benefit design for patients with opioid use disorder and case studies of health plans that have successfully incorporated interventions to encourage safe and appropriate opioid use.

Opioid Safety Toolkit for Health Plans (California Health Care Foundation) 

Why Health Plans Should Go to the “MAT” in the Fight Against Opioid Addiction (California Health Care Foundation) 

Curbing the Opioid Epidemic: Checklist for Health Plans and Purchasers, updated February 2019 (Smart Care California)

Insurance Barriers to Accessing Treatment of Opioid Use Disorders and Minimum Insurance Benefits for Patients with Opioid Use Disorder (California Society of Addiction Medicine)

2018 Smart Care California Opioid Survey Results: Summary by Purchaser and Summary of 2017 vs 2018 Results


Narcotics Safety Initiative: Opioid Overuse, Chronic Pain, and What Plans Can Do About It (Marcus Thygeson, M.D., M.P.H., Blue Shield of California, IHA Board Meeting, September 2016)

MemorialCare Health System’s Approach to Reducing Opioid Overuse: The Providers’ Role (James D. Leo, M.D., F.A.C.P., F.C.C.P, MemorialCare Health System, IHA Board Meeting, September 2016)

Reducing Opioid Overuse (Neal Kohatsu, M.D., California Department of Health Care Services, and Kelly Pfeifer, M.D., California Health Care Foundation, Smart Care California Meeting, October 2015)


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