Senate passes sweeping opioid legislation

HARTFORD — With unanimous support, the state senate on Tuesday passed a comprehensive piece of opioid legislation with measures considered by lawmakers as some of the toughest in the nation at combating the epidemic.

The bill would put a seven-day cap on initial opioid prescriptions used to treat acute pain, a strict measure recently adopted by lawmakers in Massachusetts. Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said he intends to sign the bill in the coming days.

"Like many other states around the country, Connecticut has seen a significant increase in the number of opioid overdose deaths,'' said Sen. Terry Gerratana, a Democrat from New Britain. "The life-saving measures in this year's proposal are timely given the growing number of deaths."

In recent years, Connecticut has seen a sharp increase in the number of people dying from opioid overdoses. In 2015 alone, more than 400 people died from opioid overdoses, about double the number in 2012.

As proposed by Malloy, the bill would also require towns and cities to have a policy in place to ensure that first responders have access to naloxone, an opioid overdose-reversing drug, and were able to use it.

"This is a big step – and it's an important action for families statewide. This is a devastating trend that is hurting families in so many communities across our country and here at home," Malloy said in statement late Tuesday.

In response to what many have called a public health crisis, the legislature has passed laws that increase access to naloxone while also removing liability for those that administer it.

The bill passed by the senate Tuesday night also clarifies language as it relates to licensed health care providers using naloxone, saying they are not liable nor are they violation the professional standard of care.

And the bill would strengthen the state's electronic prescription monitoring effort to prevent doctor-shopping, a practice employed by addicts to secure multiple prescriptions for drugs.

The alcohol and drug policy council, which was reformed in past opioid legislation, was required to have in their plan a goal of reducing opioid overdose deaths in Connecticut. Alcohol and drug counseling, seen as integral to effective recovery, was also further defined in scope.

Last week, the house passed the bill with unanimous support after a short discussion. Lawmakers said the legislation took pieces of a number of other bills on the topic that had made various progress in the legislature.

"Hopefully … when this bill takes effect, we will be able to say we stopped people from developing an addiction that almost always leaves them to die,'' said Rep. Sean Scanlon of Guilford.

Courant staff writer Daniela Altimari contributed to this story.


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