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The Pulse

  • NCAPA Donates to Project Lazarus


    Fred Wells Brason II (left) accepts a $1000 gift to Project Lazarus presented by Don Metzger , President of the North Carolina Academy of Physician Assistants.

    The North Carolina Academy of Physician Assistants has donated $1000 toward the work of Project Lazarus, a community-based opioid overdose prevention program that began in North Carolina and is now serving as a nation-wide model.

    Don Metzger, NCAPA President, presented a $1000 check to Fred Wells Brason II, Project Lazarus Executive Director, on August 19 at NCAPA’s annual summer conference. Brason served as keynote speaker at the 37th Annual NCAPA Summer Conference. Brason’s presentation covered national trends in opioid overdose and the efforts of Project Lazarus to stem this problem at local, state, and national levels.

    Metzger spoke to the more than conference 1,000 attendees, saying “Physician assistants (PAs) are on the front lines of this epidemic and are often the first to recognize and offer treatment for these patients.  Project Lazarus is a comprehensive program that not only recognizes the problem of prescription drug abuse but also offers treatment options for those who are addicted.  PAs are advocates for our patients and we fully support Project Lazarus.”

    As of 2008, North Carolina’s drug overdose rate was 12.9 per 100,000 individuals over the age of 12, a rate higher than that of 24 states, including South Carolina and Virginia. In that same year, prescription painkillers were involved in 14,800 overdose deaths in the U.S.—more than cocaine and heroin combined.

    Project Lazarus was established in 2008 in response to the extremely high drug overdose death rates in Wilkes County, NC. In 2007, Wilkes County had the third highest drug overdose death rate in the nation, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Project Lazarus enables overdose prevention by providing technical assistance to create and maintain community coalitions, and help them create locally tailored drug overdose prevention programs, and connect them to state and national resources.

    For the past year, NCAPA has partnered with Project Lazarus in urging all physician assistants practicing in North Carolina to register with the North Carolina Controlled Substance Reporting System, a voluntary program to track the prescribing and dispensing of controlled substances.

    According to the CDC, the misuse of classified prescription drug abuse has now reached epidemic proportions in the U.S.  In 2010, 2 million people in the U.S. reported using prescription painkillers non-medically (i.e. recreationally) for the first time within the last year—nearly 5,500 new users each day.

    While there has been a marked decrease in the use of some illegal drugs, the number of prescriptions filled for opioid pain relievers – some of the most powerful medications available – has increased dramatically in recent years. Data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health show that nearly one-third of people aged 12 and over who used drugs for the first time in 2009 began by using a prescription drug non-medically. From 1997 to 2007, the milligram-per-person use of prescription opioids in the U.S. grew from 74 milligrams to 369 milligrams, an increase of 402%.

    Project Lazarus has pioneered the use of community involvement to fight prescription drug misuse and overdose. After the program’s inception, overdose deaths declined by 69% in Wilkes County between 2009 and 2011. In 2011, not a single Wilkes County resident died from a prescription opioid from a prescriber within the county, down from 82% in 2008. Hospital emergency department visits for overdose and substance abuse were down 15% between 2009 and 2010.  Project Lazarus is now being used as a model for the federal government in its efforts to deal with the epidemic of prescription drug abuse.

    “NCAPA is proud to support the efforts of Project Lazarus in fighting overdose prevention, and we look forward to our continued partnership in the days ahead,” Metzger said.


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