Physicians provide testimony on education requirement and gains

by Kate Alfano, CMS Communications Coordinator

The 2019 Opioid and Other Substance Use Disorders Study Committee, chaired by Sen. Brittany Pettersen, has met throughout the summer to consider legislative solutions to the opioid crisis for the purpose of informing work in the 2020 General Assembly.

Now in their third year, the bipartisan committee is charged with reviewing data and statistics on the scope of the substance use disorder problem in Colorado; compiling an overview of the current resources available to Coloradans; reviewing the availability of medication-assisted treatment options and whether pharmacists can prescribe those medications; examining what other states and countries are doing to address substance use disorders; identifying the gaps in prevention, intervention, harm reduction, treatment and recovery resources; and identifying possible legislative options to address these gaps.

CMS President Debra Parsons, MD, FACP, testified before the committee at their first meeting on July 9, joining other top provider experts: Jonathan Clapp, MD, a pain specialist in Denver; Robert Valuck, PhD, RPh, executive director of the Colorado Consortium on Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention; and Ronne Hines, director of DORA’s Division of Professions and Occupations.

Parsons focused on three areas of CMS’ effort to address the pubic health crisis of opioids: positive trends in physician education and opioid prescribing; CMS’ strong partnership with the Colorado Consortium; and the recently released “Spotlight on Colorado” report that showed Colorado leading the way in combatting the opioid epidemic.

“CMS is thrilled” about trends in opioid prescribing and Prescription Drug Monitoring Program utilization, Parsons said in her testimony, citing that opioid prescribing rates in Colorado fell over 29 percent in the last five years and PDMP checks increased 650 percent since 2014, reaching nearly 4.5 million queries in 2018.

“This new state data is consistent with surveys of CMS members demonstrating broad uptake in voluntary continuing medical education credits across multiple specialties. An overwhelming majority of CMS physician members, collectively 70 percent, have had CME on opioids in the past two to three years. The CMS survey results along with the state data demonstrate that our educational efforts are working in substance use disorder prevention. These positive trends are an important combination of many efforts and we applaud this committee for your good work on these issues.”

She addressed the new mandatory CME requirement passed by the General Assembly in the 2019 session, SB19-228, pledging CMS’ commitment to working with the Consortium on Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention and the Department of Regulatory Agencies and requesting that physicians who have completed applicable CME in the last two to three years be credited toward the new requirement.

Parsons referenced the CMS multi-specialty convening on opioids, which brought together physicians representing many specialties and geographic regions for two day-long brainstorming sessions, and work with the Colorado Hospital Association in the CO’s CURE project (Clinicians United to Resolve the Epidemic), which has set an ambitious goal of creating the nation’s first multi-specialty guidelines to address and resolve the opioid epidemic in Colorado.

Finally, Parsons gave an update on the “Spotlight on Colorado” report, an in-depth analysis of Colorado’s responses to the opioid epidemic that was produced in collaboration with the American Medical Association and Manatt Health, highlighting the next step of creating a “crosswalk” between the recommendations from the Spotlight report and Colorado law to identify gaps still needing to be addressed.

“We are eager to continue working with your Interim committee and are proud to support your efforts to curb opioid and other substance misuse,” she said.

Additional committee meetings have been held July 30, Aug. 13 and Aug. 27, with remaining meetings scheduled for Sept. 24 and Oct. 29.

Don Stader, MD, has been the CMS representative this year and since its inception in 2017. He praised CMS for being a “wonderful voice and advocate for physicians and patients in this space.” He also spoke to the committee’s efficiency this year. “There are some issues that still need to be addressed but many are not with physicians and providers. Obviously there are opinions regarding mandatory education and we are advocating for better PDMP and elimination of several issues such as prior authorization and the requirement to trial opioids prior to other medications.”

Among the “house of medicine,” he recognizes “growing consensus that is being further advanced by CMS’ work with multiple stakeholders.”

“The CO’s CURE Initiative and the CMS multi-specialty convenings are concrete examples of the growing willingness of physicians to work across specialties to combat the crisis,” Stader said.

Get involved in the effort to reduce the public health crisis of opioids by volunteering on the CMS Committee on Prescription Drug Abuse, or joining a workgroup of the Colorado Consortium for Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention. Contact CMS for more information: email

Categories: Communications, Colorado Medicine, Resources, Initiatives, Prescription Drug Abuse