House Bill 159 Helps Reduce Risks of Opioid Abuse and Responds to Governor Walker’s Opioid Epidemic Disaster Declaration
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 22, 2017
Juneau – Tonight, a bill to respond to the ongoing opioid epidemic in Alaska passed its final legislative hurdle and will be sent to Governor Walker’s desk for his signature. The Governor included House Bill 159 on the call for the Second Special Session and with tonight’s action the Alaska House of Representatives, which initially passed the bill in May, concurred with the minor changes to the bill made by the Alaska State Senate.
“The abuse of opioids, especially prescription painkillers, is a public health emergency in Alaska, which is why Governor Walker received nearly unanimous praise earlier this year for the decision to declare the opioid epidemic a disaster,” said Representative Bryce Edgmon (D-Dillingham), the Speaker of the Alaska House of Representatives. “Tonight’s vote shows overwhelming support for additional controls on the distribution of these highly addictive painkillers that are increasingly being abused. It’s heartbreaking to see how the abuse of opioids is tearing apart families and destroying futures.”
House Bill 159 includes provisions calling for the Department of Health and Social Services to provide doctors with regular reports on their prescribing practices for opioids and to allow patients to enter into a voluntary non-opioid directive, which would prevent doctors from prescribing opioid based painkillers to patients who would rather not use them. HB 159 also calls for continuing education in pain management or addiction medicine and for initial prescriptions of opioid based painkillers to be limited to a maximum of seven days unless a doctor can document why a longer prescription is necessary, except for optometrists which will be limited to a four day maximum. Additionally, the bill updates requirements for the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program database, which tracks how much and where opioids are prescribed.
“Alaskans are dying due to addiction to these opioid painkillers,” said House Health and Social Services Committee Chair Rep. Ivy Spohnholz (D-Anchorage). “This bill will help prevent overdose deaths through more information sharing and by educating providers and patients about the dangers associated with addictive painkillers.”
The Alaska House of Representatives voted 29-10 to concur with the changes made by the Senate to House Bill 159. The bill will now be sent to Governor Walker for his signature.
For more information, please contact Alaska House Majority Coalition Deputy Press Secretary Drew Cason at (907) 465-6791.