NEWS: Bill to Combat Opioid Epidemic Passes House

Rep. Ivy Spohnholz

Legislation Provides Information and Mechanisms for Patients and Doctors to Reduce Risks of Opioid Abuse

May 22, 2017

Juneau – Today, the Alaska House of Representatives passed House Bill 159, introduced at the request of the Governor and carried in the House by Rep. Ivy Spohnholz (D-Anchorage), to update statutes regarding the prescription of opioids to empower and protect Alaskans. Both Governor Walker and the Alaska Legislature recently issued a disaster declaration for the ongoing opioid epidemic and allowed for the distribution of Narcan. HB 159 is an important next step in curbing the recent rapid growth of opioid abuse in Alaska.

While treatment for opioid addiction and law enforcement efforts to reduce the access to illegal opioids are both important pieces of addressing the current crisis, reducing the potential for abuse of legally obtained opioids is one of the lowest cost measures that can deliver the greatest benefits.

“90 people died of opioid overdose in 2016, and two thirds of those deaths involved a prescription opioid,” said Rep. Spohnholz. “Better information and education can reduce these avoidable tragic losses to individuals, families, and communities.”

HB 159 takes simple steps, including requiring two out of every 40 hours of providers’ continuing medical education credits be in pain management and providing regular reports with non-punitive feedback to each provider on her or his prescribing practices for opioids and how that compares to that of their peers.

In addition to education and information for providers, HB 159 would give patients the ability to execute a Voluntary Nonopioid Directive, and parents and guardians will have the ability to do so on behalf of minors. These directives would prevent the use of opioids in treatment (except in an emergency) and will help patients who believe they may be at risk of addiction or abuse. The bill also increases consultation and update requirements for the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP) database, limits initial prescriptions to a maximum of seven days (unless the prescriber documents why a longer prescription is necessary), and allows patients to request pharmacists only partially fill a prescription.

“The opioid epidemic is tearing at the fabric of rural Alaska,” said Speaker of the House Rep. Bryce Edgmon (D-Dillingham). “This legislation is critical to combatting the opioid epidemic because it provides measures to prevent people from ever becoming addicted.”

House Bill 159 passed the Alaska House of Representatives today House by a vote of 25-8. HB 159 will now be transmitted to the Alaska State Senate for consideration.

For more information, contact Alaska House Majority Coalition Deputy Press Secretary Drew Cason at (907) 465-6791.


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