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Prescription for danger: how a lack of opioid monitoring in New York led to deadly results

(WBNG) — Opioid addiction is a long-time foe to the Southern Tier and an issue with the system that tracks opioid prescriptions has caught the attention of New York State officials.

Melody Brundage of Binghamton had to live a mother’s worst nightmare in April of 2016.

“We got a phone call from that young man who was staying with Katie. He said, you gotta come up here. Katie’s on the bathroom floor and I don’t think she’s breathing,” sobbed Melody. “I knew when I saw her, she was very cold, so I knew she was gone.”

Melody’s daughter, Katie Brundage, died of an overdose Easter weekend 2016. Her addiction began years before, after she was prescribed Vicodin following a wisdom teeth removal.

Since then, Melody says Katie’s addiction grew stronger. She says Katie would often lie to doctor’s offices to get prescriptions re-filled.

“That girl could pull the wool over his eyes,” said Melody. “She would tell him things like ‘oh my god, my pills fell in the toilet’ … so he would give her a prescription for another one.”

That was during the mid-2000s. Now, doctors are more aware of these issues and even use the opioid monitoring system called I-STOP.

It stands for Internet System Tracking of Over-Prescribing. It’s a computer system used by doctors to track the number of opioids a patient is given in order to guarantee they do not overprescribe.

However, a report from the New York State Comptroller’s Office released in late 2018 showed after a study regarding a New York treatment program, health officials were not checking the system regularly.

In the key findings of the audit, the report states “During our audit period, 33 percent of Medicaid recipients in Treatment Programs also received prescription opioids outside of their Treatment Programs.”

They identified 493 of 18,786 Medicaid recipients who were receiving additional drugs overdosed. 12 of those people died. This, as a result of Treatment Programs not properly checking I-STOP.

Melody Brundage says she is shocked by this report.

“I think more can be done,” said Melody. “I know more has been done since Katie passed. I know people don’t want to spend money on it…but I don’t think it’s that cut and dry.”

The State Comptroller’s office simply recommended medical programs in New York to regularly check I-STOP to prevent future overdoses.

Anne Sparaco

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