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UT Center for Health Communication Awarded State Health Services Contract to Fight Opioid Epidemic

The Texas Health and Human Services Commission has awarded the UT Austin Center for Health Communication a contract to develop effective messaging to promote the new Texas Prescription Monitoring Program. 

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AUSTIN, Texas — Part of the problem with the prescription opioid misuse and overdose epidemic in Texas has to do with who can access the drugs. To help keep track of this, the Texas Legislature recently changed the law to require Texas licensed pharmacies to report all dispensed controlled substances to the Texas Prescription Monitoring Program (PMP) no later than the next business day after the prescription is filled. And now, UT Austin’s Center for Health Communication will develop and distribute a statewide campaign to promote use of the program.

The Texas Health and Human Services Commission has awarded The University of Texas at Austin Center for Health Communication a $642,000, two-year contract to develop and test effective messaging with health care providers and prescribers across the state to promote the new monitoring program. The web-based PMP system collects and monitors prescription data for controlled substances — including prescription opioids — and provides a venue for monitoring patient prescription history.

“This is an exciting opportunity for the Center for Health Communication to do work that will impact the health of people across Texas,” said Michael Mackert, director of the center and associate professor in the Stan Richards School of Advertising and Public Relations and the Dell Medical School. “It’s particularly meaningful given the interdisciplinary nature of the project, with faculty from across the university coming together to address a complicated and pressing health issue.”

Prescription opioids include painkillers such as Oxycodone and Hydrocodone. Prescription and illegal opioids account for more than 60 percent of overdose deaths in the United States, a toll that has quadrupled during the past two decades.

Since 2000, the U.S. rate from drug overdose deaths involving opioids has increased from 2.1 per 100,000 persons in 1999 to 8.8 per 100,000 in 2014, with nearly half of opioid overdose deaths involving prescription opioids. In Texas, the rate is lower but has increased from 1.5 to 4.2 per 100,000 during the same time.

Faculty members from the Moody College of Communication, Dell Medical School, College of Pharmacy, School of Nursing and Steve Hicks School of Social Work will partner to develop and distribute a statewide campaign. Mackert will serve as principal investigator for the project, and Stan Richards School of Advertising and Public Relations Assistant Professor Kate Pounders will serve as co-principal investigator.