Focus Area: Opioids


The overuse of opioids is a public health crisis. Opioid-related deaths have quadrupled in the last fifteen years and now surpass deaths from automobile accidents. Recent studies estimate the opioid epidemic costs the United States $78.5 billion annually, including $28 billion spent for healthcare and substance abuse and $7.7 billion for criminal justice costs. Each day, about 12 Californians die from a drug overdose, and opioids—primarily prescription pain relievers and heroin—are the main driver of overdose deaths. Patients seeking relief from chronic pain can too easily become addicted to prescription pain relievers. Smart Care California is promoting actionable approaches to reversing the course of the opioid epidemic.

What's New

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

Reducing Opioid-Related Morbidity and Mortality: Payer and Provider Strategies

Curbing the Opioid Epidemic: Checklist for Health Plans and Purchasers, updated November 2017

Reducing Opioid Overuse Dashboard for Smart Care California


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)