Focus Area: Opioids


Despite intense national attention, opioid overdose deaths continue to climb, with devastating impact on communities, the cost of health care, 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.

What's New

Opioid Safety Toolkit for Health Plans

Curbing the Opioid Epidemic: Checklist for Health Plans and Purchasers, updated February 2019

California Quality Collaborative Accelerating Opioid Safety Ambulatory Care Toolkit

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

Opioid Safety Resource Catalog



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.


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.

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.


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)