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3/11/2016 Miller sponsors legislative initiatives to combat opioid crisis
STATE HOUSE – Sen. Joshua Miller, chairman of the Senate Health and Human Services Committee, has introduced a package of legislation taking aim at the opioid overdose epidemic that has gripped Rhode Island and the region.

The overall goals of the legislation are to help prevent Rhode Islanders from becoming addicted in the first place, and to get swift, effective treatment for those who are addicted or overdose.

“Opioid addiction and overdoses cross all the lines of age, socio-economic status and race. We need to address this from every angle if we are going to stop the growth of the problem,” said Chairman Miller (D-Dist. 28, Cranston, Providence).

His first bill aims to ensure that those who are treated at hospitals, clinics and urgent care facilities with a substance-abuse disorder receive the follow-up care they need to address their addiction. The bill (2016-S 2356) would require comprehensive discharge planning for patients treated for substance use disorders and would require insurers to cover medication-assisted addiction treatment including methadone, buprenorphine and naltrexone. The legislation builds upon legislation passed in 2014 (2014-S 2801Aaa), which aimed to give patients information about where they could get help upon their discharge from the hospital.

“The discharge procedure needs take a more proactive, assertive approach. People who have overdosed have serious problems, and those problems need to be met with an equally serious effort to actually enroll them the most effective treatment immediately,” said Chairman Miller.

Another bill he is sponsoring (2016-S 2461) would require health practitioners and health plan coverage to support clinical practices fostering use of abuse-deterrent opioid analgesic drug product formulations approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Abuse-deterrent formulations are medications that are manufactured in a way that helps prevent drug abuse.
Currently, only about two percent of prescribed opioids have any abuse-deterrent properties.

“Prevention, of course, is the healthiest and least-expensive way to combat the opioid epidemic. Prescribers need to be made aware of all the available alternatives to each of the highly addictive drugs, and make every effort to choose the safest ones first, and use the most addictive ones only as a last resort,” said Chairman Miller.

Another one of his bills (2016-S 2460) would require all health insurance providers that provide prescription coverage to cover opioid antagonists, such as Narcan. These relatively inexpensive medicines reverse the effects of overdoses of opiates, including heroin and many commonly abused prescription painkillers like OxyContin and Vicodin. They generally have no adverse effects if given to someone who is not overdosing, and are easily administered as either a nasal spray or an injection that can be delivered even through clothing.

The final bill in the package (2016-S 2509) adds a $1 fee per covered life per month for third-party administrators of pharmacy benefit plans, to be paid when filing their annual report with the state. The funds will go into a restricted-receipt account and would be spent on treatment for opioid use disorders. It is expected to raise about $500,000 annually.

For more information, contact:
Meredyth R. Whitty, Publicist
State House Room 20
Providence, RI 02903
(401) 222-1923