Malloy signs bill to tighten reporting of prescription opioids and make antidote accessible

New London — Surrounded by lawmakers, state officials and advocates at the Alliance for Living, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy signed a bill into law Wednesday that is meant to combat substance abuse and opioid overdoses by better monitoring how these drugs are prescribed and increasing access to naloxone, a drug that reverses overdoses.

"There is not more pain, but there are a lot of prescriptions going out," said Malloy. "We need to work with doctors. We need to work with pharmacists." 

The legislation will require prescribers of opioids such as oxycodone to report each prescription to the state's Prescription Monitoring Program within 24 hours instead of the previous seven-day period.

The goal is to prevent addicts from doctor shopping. Many of those addicted to opioids will go to different doctors to obtain painkillers, and those who can no longer get the prescribed narcotics often turn to heroin.

The new law also allows pharmacists, after they receive training and certification through the Department of Consumer Protection, to prescribe the life-saving drug naloxone to Connecticut families, first responders and the treatment community. 

It requires continuing education for medical professionals who prescribe painkillers and reconvenes the state Alcohol and Drug Policy Council.

"Heroin is more dangerous than it's ever been and it's cheaper than it's ever been," said Malloy.

The governor said many have been critical, saying that addicts choose to do drugs. Malloy said, however, that the best way to deal with addiction is to give the addict a chance to live and get treatment.

Gary Mendell, a Connecticut resident and founder of Shatterproof, a national, nonprofit organization that has the mission of preventing addiction and ending the stigma and suffering of those affected, was present Wednesday. He lost his son, Brian, in 2011 after a long battle with drug addiction. 

Mendell praised the legislation and thanked Malloy and his administration for recognizing that addiction is a disease.

"This bill will save many lives, protects many lives from being shattered," said Mendell.

Kelly Thompson, executive director at the Alliance for Living, said the bill was comprehensive because it holds the entire community "responsible on how it addresses substance abuse." Alliance For Living is a nonprofit agency that provides services to people affected by HIV/AIDS in New London County.

Department of Correction Commissioner Scott Semple, Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection Commissioner Dora B. Schriro and Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services Commissioner Miriam E. Delphin-Rittmon also briefly spoke at the signing ceremony.

Between 2009 and 2014 more than 2,000 accidental and unintentional opioid-involved deaths occurred in 150 of Connecticut's 169 cities and towns.

The state Office of the Chief Medical Examiner reported that heroin was involved in 325 deaths, or 58 percent of all accidental deaths, in 2014.

Nationally, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that more people are dying from heroin overdoses. Heroin-related deaths nearly doubled between 2011 and 2013 — more than 8,200 people died in 2013.

"Heroin use is increasing at an alarming rate in many parts of society, driven by both the prescription opioid epidemic and cheaper, more available heroin," said CDC Director Tom Frieden in a news release. "To reverse this trend we need an all-of-society response — to improve opioid prescribing practices to prevent addiction, expand access to effective treatment for those who are addicted, increase use of naloxone to reverse overdoses, and work with law enforcement partners like DEA to reduce the supply of heroin."

Many of those CDC recommendations have already been incorporated into law during the Malloy administration. The Good Samaritan law passed in 2012 encourages people to call 911 to save the life of someone who has overdosed.

Third-party prescription laws passed in 2014 allow practitioners to prescribe naloxone, known as Narcan, to anyone who can treat or prevent a drug overdose, such as family members or friends of suspected opioid abusers.

State police carry naloxone in their cruisers, and trained emergency medical technicians can also administer the drug.

Since state troopers started carrying Narcan in October 2014, they have used it 36 times across the state, 10 times in the area policed by Troop E in Montville, and 34 people were revived/regained consciousness, according to a state police spokeswoman.

i.larraneta@theday.com

Twitter: @larraneta


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