State agencies are trying to figure out how many people are overdosing in Nevada after a bill passed in the last legislative session. It's all part of the governor's plan to address opioid abuse, starting with how providers report that information to the state.

Right now the state is in a fact-finding mission to get more information on overdoses: where they're happening, who they're happening to, and which areas need the most financial help. Most importantly, a recent change in policy will make the reporting process happen faster.

"Those people who overdose in a hospital setting tend to have a greatly increased risk of overdosing again and/or dying from an overdose," Nevada Division of Public and Behavioral Health Deputy Administrator Julia Peek said. "So it's really, really important to offer intervention to those patients as soon as possible."

In the past, it has taken between six months and a year for the state to get information on an overdose; too late to alert the community to a spike in problems, or to alert police to a spike in particularly dangerous drugs like Fentanyl.

State officials have now adopted temporary regulations requiring that providers report overdose information within seven days.

"It's basically going to fill a gap that we had in the this state," Peek said. "We needed a better way to track overdoses in real time."

The temporary regulations will be in place for 120 days while they get feedback from doctors and hospitals about the best way to write the permanent regulations. When they get more overdose data, Peek said then they can create better programs and interventions for patients.

The new prescribing protocols in AB474, including mandatory risk assessment and informed written consent for an opioid prescription, only apply to Schedule II-IV drugs prescribed for the treatment of pain. Drugs in Schedule V, such as non-narcotic, non-opioid and anti-seizure medications, are not subject to these new prescribing protocols.

“The prescribing protocols in AB474 went through months of vetting with subject matter experts, State occupational licensing boards, several physician groups, patients, and individual providers. Because so many stakeholders were part of this collaborative process, the bill passed unanimously through both houses of the Legislature,” said Governor Brian Sandoval. “Prescribers in Nevada need to be educated on what the prescribing protocols do, and more importantly what they do not do, and how to incorporate them in to their practices. These protocols preserve clinical decision making, prioritize patient safety and strengthen the relationship between the patient and the provider. Our state associations, and licensing boards will continue to work to support bringing providers into compliance with the law and work in an open and transparent manner throughout the regulatory process.” 

“There is no delay in implementation and my office and the Department of Health and Human Services will continue to support our occupational licensing boards and association in their efforts to educate and train their constituencies on Assembly Bill 474,” concluded Governor Sandoval. 

The Division of Public and Behavioral Health has provided a form for healthcare providers to use when submitting a report to the Chief Medical Officer. All reports should be faxed to 775-684-5999. To set up electronic reporting, contact Julia Peek at Dentist and hospice providers are not required report.

(Office of Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval contributed to this report.)