The Washington Department of Labor and Industries has changed the amount of time doctors are allowed to prescribe narcotics (opioids) for injured workers without agency authorization, from twelve to six weeks. L&I insurance coverage for opioids after six weeks, will depend on doctors’ use of best practices. The required best practices include screening patients for risks of side effects or addiction and monitoring whether workers are recovering their ability to perform normal activities. Physicians should track function and pain on a regular basis to determine the effect of opioid therapy. L&I said the change is intended to improve the safety and effectiveness of treatment for pain among injured workers in the state, but also noted that opioid-related deaths have exceeded accidental deaths due to motor-vehicles and firearms every year since 2007. Washington has had one of the highest rates of prescription opioid-related deaths among the states. “These changes will improve pain treatment for injured workers as well as their safety during recovery,” commented Jaymie Mai, L&I Pharmacy Director, “for some doctors, measuring physical function and screening for risk may be new practices.” Physicians can find everything they need to implement the new treatment guideline . Although doctors are expected to be familiar with the guidelines and follow the recommendations, L&I also understands that guidelines are not hard-and-fast rules. Good medical judgment is important in deciding how to use and interpret this information. To develop the new L&I opioid treatment guideline, practicing physicians who specialize in pain management and in treating injured workers worked with L&I. The medical treatment guidelines are written from a clinical perspective, to guide clinical care and the changes are consistent with the Department of Health’s pain management rules and are part of L&I’s ongoing efforts to improve pain treatment for injured workers. According to Mai, “We are pleased that high dosage levels have been coming down and we are seeing fewer deaths among workers due to pain medication.”

A Washington Worker’s Compensation Lawyer on Your Side

If you have a question about employee rights or worker’s compensation, it is important to contact an experienced Seattle worker’s compensation lawyer immediately. At the Phillips Law Firm, our worker’s compensation attorneys have represented workers in Seattle, Bellevue, Everett, Tacoma, and throughout the State of Washington with their worker’s compensation questions and claims. Call us today at 1-800-708-6000 or visit us on the web.