Bill targeting opioid crisis heads to Malloy's desk
Passed unanimously in the Senate on Tuesday evening, the bill tackles the crisis from a variety of angles, including prescribing practices, insurance coverage and treatment facility mandates.
A modified version of a bill Malloy put forward in January, it passed the state House last week by a vote of 146-0.
In statements sent out since its House passage, lawmakers have painted the bill as a necessary step forward in the state’s fight against addiction.
State Sen. Heather Somers, R-Groton, touted its treatment-related changes.
First, the bill would make insurers cover medically necessary detoxification. It also would require treatment facilities to use the American Society of Addiction Medicine’s criteria for admission. That means administrators would be urged to accept people even if they're not presently intoxicated.
Somers has been advocating for both changes since the legislative session began.
“This is a disease and an epidemic,” Somers said back in January. “If you have insurance ... you should be able to get the care you need just like you would for other diseases.”
State Rep. Mike France, R-Ledyard, highlighted the provision of the bill that would limit initial opioid prescriptions for minors to a five-day supply. Research, he said, shows children under the age of 17, if they are prescribed opioid medication, are three times as likely to misuse opioids after high school — even if they lacked risk factors for substance abuse.
The new prescription limit, he said, “is a great and important step towards reducing the likelihood of opioid overdose amongst our youth.”
France expressed concern about the portion of the bill that allows qualified home health care nurses to dispose of their patient’s unwanted controlled substances. In other settings, including long-term care and outpatient surgical facilities, two people must be involved in the disposal process. For consistency’s sake, he said, the same should be true of home health care nurses.
State Sen. Art Linares, R-Westbrook, said the bill “seeks to address addiction before it starts.”
It requires the state Department of Consumer Protection to record and monitor prescriptions for controlled substances and allows the department to share some of that information with other relevant state agencies. It also requires such prescriptions, in most cases, to be submitted to pharmacies electronically — something Linares said should cut down on prescription fraud.
Linares also approved of two other processes the bill creates. One would allow patients to request not to be prescribed an opioid drug. The other would require opioid-prescribing physicians to discuss with all patients — not just minors — the risks associated with opioid drug use.
“I don’t expect this bill to solve the opioid addiction crisis in our state,” Linares said, calling the problem one that has been “years in the making.” “It’s not a cure, but it’s a start.”
Malloy applauded all aspects of the bill and thanked leaders on both sides of the aisle for working with his office to “make it even better.”
“Opioid addiction and prescription drug abuse is a disease that is impacting nearly every community and people of every background,” Malloy said. “It is a complex crisis that does not have one root cause, nor does it have simple solution, but we need to do everything in our power to treat and prevent it.”
A fiscal analysis of the bill indicates it could save the state money, as smaller prescription sizes for state employees and retirees would cost less money. The bill provides an exception to electronic prescribing for those who don't have the "technological capacity" to send prescriptions that way, so prescribers shouldn't face additional costs, either.
“The General Assembly’s unanimous support of this bill sends a clear message that we are united in tackling this issue together,” Malloy said.
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