James Neal | Enid News & Eagle
Jan 31, 2019
Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter launched a new review board Tuesday to track the number of opioid-related deaths in the state.
The Opioid Overdose Fatality Review Board was created through House Bill 2798, which was signed into law last May and became effective in November.
State health agency heads and members of law enforcement, legal and health care communities comprise the 19-member board, which held its first meeting Tuesday in Hunter's Oklahoma City office.
The board is charged with studying causes of death due to prescription or illicit opioid use, and compiling an annual report and database on opioid-related deaths, along with recommendations to combat the opioid crisis in the state.
“Over the course of the meetings of the Commission on Opioid Abuse, it became apparent that a better emphasis on accurate data was needed,” Hunter said in a press release. “More accurate data and information will allow us to properly identify where deaths are happening and what drugs individuals are using so we can deploy proper resources to specific areas. We will also be able to study each case and refer appropriate cases for criminal prosecution. I am grateful for the members, who are dedicating their time and talents to help us accomplish this mission.”
After the bill became law last November, Oklahoma State Department of Health began forwarding copies of death certificates for adults to the medical examiner. The medical examiner will "review the death certificate in accordance with criteria established by the board and refer those specific cases to the board for review," according to the press release.
During the course of Tuesday's meeting the board voted to name as its chair Dr. Jason Beaman, D.O., with Oklahoma State University Health Sciences Center, listed on the board agenda as an "expert in drug addiction treatment."
Co-vice chairs also were elected Tuesday: Brandon Clabes, Midwest City Police Department chief, and Dr. Kevin Taubman, M.D., a professor at the University of Oklahoma School of Community Medicine. Taubman also is a past president of Oklahoma State Medical Association and was co-chair of the SQ 788 is Not Medical Coalition, which opposed legalization of medical marijuana in Oklahoma.
Also serving on the review board is District Attorney Chris Boring, who serves District 26, encompassing Alfalfa, Dewey, Major, Woods and Woodward counties.
The review board's next meeting is set for 1 p.m. June 21 in the attorney general's office, 313 NE 21st in Oklahoma City.
Creation of the Opioid Overdose Fatality Review Board was a recommendation last year from the Oklahoma Commission on Opioid Abuse. That body is scheduled to reconvene at 9:30 a.m. Thursday in room 206 at the Oklahoma State Capitol.
In addition to discussing more ways to address the ongoing opioid crisis, the commission will seat two new legislative members, Sen. Roger Thompson, R-Okemah, and Rep. Chris Kannady, R-Oklahoma City. They are replacing Sen. AJ Griffin and Rep. Tim Downing, who didn’t seek re-election to their seats last year.
In a press release, Hunter said "while the commission made great strides last year, more work is needed."
During the 2018 legislative session, the commission made seven legislative recommendations, all of which were signed into law.
"The new laws provide more tools for law enforcement, will help prevent future addicts by limiting initial prescriptions for patients with acute pain, prevent the diversion of opioid prescriptions from flooding the market and hold distributors, manufacturers and businesses accountable through proper oversight," according to the press release.
Also ongoing is the state's lawsuit against opioid manufacturers.
Hunter filed the lawsuit, State of Oklahoma vs. Purdue Pharma et al, in June 2017, alleging opioid drugmakers misrepresented the benefits and addictive qualities of their drugs. That lawsuit is set for a trial in Cleveland County in May.