03/29/2012 05:57 pm ET

Prescription Drug Abuse: Governors To Develop Best Practices For States

The nation's governors have begun studying prescription drug abuse and plan to develop best practices that can be used by state governments.

The National Governors Association this week said Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) and Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley (R) would co-chair the association's new prescription drug academy to develop ways states can reduce prescription abuse nationally. The program resulted from discussion among state chief executives about what they see as a growing issue that involves health and criminal justice policy, governors association officials said.

Krista Drobac, the association's health division director, said the group plans to work with seven states -- Colorado, Alabama and five others chosen in a competitive bidding process -- in the first year to develop policies and procedures. The five additional states will be chosen by an independent panel after governors submit bids to enter the process. Colorado and Alabama were picked after governors looked for co-chairs from both parties representing different regions of the country.

"The states will hear from experts in the field," Drobac said. "They will also meet with each other to devise an action plan for their states."

Drobac said the seven states will have field visits from a National Governors Association policy team, which will include representatives from companies funding the program. During these visits, the team will work with governors' offices along with state health and criminal justice officials. There will be meetings for all seven states to work together. Bentley and Hickenlooper plan to attend all joint meetings, Drobac said.

Drobac said the association plans to look at prescription drug abuse from perspectives that include medical, addiction, criminal justice and economic. She said the issue includes trying to end addiction, along with robberies of pharmacies. She said the economic perspective shows a real problem as well.

"They are diverting pills in the supply chain," Drobac said.

Among issues likely to be tackled are pill mills and doctor shopping for prescriptions. Drobac said the goal is for a comprehensive strategy tackling all aspects of the issue. The findings from the states will be included on governors association web page with case studies on the seven states. She said the study team plans to analyze the impact of the program at the end of a year and then begin the process with seven additional states.

"The abuse of prescription drugs is growing and can now be seen in communities of all sizes throughout our country," Hickenlooper said in a statement issued by governors association. "This is a serious problem that is claiming far too many victims. We look forward to working with Gov. Bentley and the National Governors Association to create strategies that will help states deal with this issue."