Justice News

Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Katharine Sullivan of the Office of Justice Programs Delivers Remarks at the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program Conference
Arlington, VA
United States
Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Remarks as Prepared for Delivery

Thank you, Tara. It’s great to be here this morning.  Patrick (Knue), thank you.  The Institute for Intergovernmental Research (IIR) is an integral part of making Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs (PDMPs) viable. I appreciated the hard work you and your team did to make this conference possible.  IIR’s management of the Harold Rogers Prescription Drug Monitoring Program is a critical part of our response to the opioid crisis and to the problem of illicit drug use more broadly. Megan (Bell) is here on behalf of Congressman Rogers. Congressman Rogers led the charge to create this program.  We appreciate the innovative approach to combatting the substance abuse crises facing this country.  Thank you Jon Adler for his leadership of the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) and for his commitment to reducing drug abuse.  And finally, a huge thank you for Director Carroll.  Director Carroll, the leader of the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), is steering the administration’s ship for the President’s mission to combat the opioid crises.  I love working with you Director Carroll and thank you.

At the Office of Justice Programs, we see PDMP as a centerpiece of the Justice Department’s anti-drug strategy.  You know that statistics:  In 2017, more than 70,000 Americans died from drug overdoses.  That’s 192 people each day – more than the number of lives lost in car accidents or gun-related homicides.  An overwhelming majority of these overdose deaths involved an opioid, including prescription opioids, heroin, and synthetic drugs like fentanyl.

Attorney General William Barr understands the gravity of this crisis, which continues to wreak havoc on communities and tear apart families.  Our Attorney General has committed substantial resources to interdiction and prosecution, and to improving the law enforcement and treatment response.  Our Attorney General appreciates big solutions to big problems.  OJP awarded more than $320 million to combat this epidemic last year alone.  These grants are building partnerships between law enforcement agencies and treatment providers and supporting efforts like drug courts.  One of the most rewarding things I did in my 11 years as a state trial court judge was to oversee a drug court and a DUI court.  I saw the incredible difference they can make in curbing abuse and deterring crime, and I’m thrilled that I now have the privilege of helping to support programs like them across the country.   I also saw first hand the lengths a struggling addict will go to obtain drugs.  PDMPs go a long way to reducing supply.

One key to reversing the trend in opioid deaths is preventing prescription drugs from falling into the wrong hands.  Fortunately, every state except Missouri, and the District of Columbia and Guam, has an active prescription drug monitoring program.  And even Missouri has made remarkable progress at the county level with a county-based PDMP covering 80 percent of the state.  Grants from BJA have provided vital support to support the growth of PDMPs nationally.  Evidence suggests that when PDMP data are readily accessible, prescribers, clinicians, and pharmacists are positioned to reduce opioid misuse, abuse, and overdose. 

We empathize with clinicians that have limited time to retrieve and review their patient’s prescription history before prescribing or dispensing.  And we know that requiring clinicians to exit their normal clinical workflow and log into the PDMP system can be a time-consuming and cumbersome process.  We are trying to solve this problem by optimizing PDMP use by integrating them with health IT systems.  BJA is working with our federal partners at the Center for Diesease Control (CDC) and the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) to reduce the burden required for accessing PDMP data by creating pathways to support cost-effective, open-source solutions to integration.  BJA is also supporting efforts to aggregate PDMP data so that states and health and law enforcement officials can target public health interventions and outreach.  We’ve awarded a number of grants that connect local, state, and national information systems so that jurisdictions can analyze a range of crucial data, across disciplines.

Our goal is to give states and communities the tools they need to maximize their PDMP programs, improve information sharing, and educate healthcare and law enforcement professionals about the value of these systems.  There’s a lot of work to be done to meet our goals and ensure that we realize the full potential of PDMPs, but we’ve been making good progress. 

I want to reiterate that PDMPs remain at the center of the Department’s response to drugs in America.  We’re grateful for the work that each of you is doing in your jurisdictions, and I would challenge you to continue looking for ways that we can make these programs stronger and more immediately responsive to the substance abuse problems facing America’s communities.  The Department of Justice stands ready to partner in viable innovative solutions and ideas.  We’re excited to support you! 

Thank you for all that you do.

Updated June 26, 2019