On Wednesday, the Washington State House passed a comprehensive bill aimed at addressing the statewide opioid epidemic. The bill, which came at the request of Governor Inslee, would address the epidemic from multiple angles.
“Our communities are reeling from opioid misuse and abuse in too many ways to address with a single solution,” said Sen. Annette Cleveland, Chair of the Senate Health Care Committee and lead sponsor of the bill. “This legislation takes action on everything from length of prescriptions and prescription monitoring, to collaboration by multiple state agencies to develop a comprehensive, statewide approach to treating and preventing opioid use disorder. The bill addresses prevention, education, treatment and swift responses to overdose.”
Among the prevention-related provisions included in the bill, SB 5380 permits pharmacists to partially fill certain prescriptions at a patient’s request, requires prescribers to discuss the risks of opioids with certain patients, and creates new requirements for the integration of electronic health records and prescription drug monitoring program data.
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The bill also requires the Department of Health, the Health Care Authority, and other state agencies to work together on initiatives to “promote a statewide approach in addressing opioid use disorder.”
These initiatives could include developing value-based payment strategies for the care of individuals with substance use disorders, promoting the use of medication-assisted treatment, implementing law enforcement-assisted diversion programs, and broadening outreach and patient navigation with community partners.
The bill would also make it easier to access opioid reversal medication by allowing hospital ERs to dispense reversal medication and permitting the Secretary of Health to issue a standing order for these kinds of medications.
From a treatment perspective, the bill requires city and county jails to provide medication-assisted treatment if funding is available.
During floor debate for the bill, the House adopted amendments prohibiting the Health Care Authority from promoting the use of supervised injections sites as a form of treatment, or partnering with agencies that supervise “the injection of illicit drugs.”
The bill passed in the House on a 96-2 vote, with Reps. Noel Frame and Nicole Macri voting in opposition.
“I support the underlying bill but was frustrated with the amendments related to safe injection sites that were added to the bill during the floor debate,” said Frame in an email. “The goal of this legislation is to combat opioid use disorder. Safe injection sites are a harm reduction strategy that gets people in the door when they are deep in the throws of addiction, so they can be connected to resources that may set them on a pathway to getting clean and sober. I think the inclusion of the amendments was bad public policy, so I voted no.”
Similarly, a spokesperson for Macri said that while Rep. Macri supports the underlying bill, she voted no “to be on record as not supporting the amendments that hung related to safe injections sites.”
Following passage in the House, Rep. Morgan Irwin tweeted,
“WA State House just passed the most important piece of opioid disorder treatment legislation in state history. SB 5380 is what happens when we as a state forget about politics and care about people.”
The legislation passed in the Senate in March on a 47-0 vote. Following amendments in the House, the bill now heads back to the Senate for reconsideration.
This story was also cross-posted on our sister site, State of Reform.