Capitol zeros in on opioid problem

By Charles Ashby (February 25, 2018)

The Colorado Legislature is slowly making progress on some of the measures that have been introduced this year to deal with the opioid crisis.

Last week, the Colorado Senate approved a bill designed to restrict the number of pills a health care provider can prescribe, to a seven-day supply.

While there are some exceptions to that restriction ­— such as patients that have chronic pain that lasts longer than three months — SB22 is designed to help prevent overprescribing, and prevent people from accumulating too many unused pills that others might find and abuse.

“The latent supply of prescription opioids in people’s cabinets, waiting to be acquired by those who may abuse and misuse, is a looming danger,” said Sen. Jack Tate, R-Parker, who introduced the bipartisan measure with Sen. Irene Aguilar, D-Denver, and Lakewood Democratic Reps. Brittany Petterson and Chris Kennedy. “Reducing these latent supplies that result from clinical opioid overprescribing is a critical first step.”

Seven Republican senators opposed the bill, including Sen. Randy Baumgardner, whose district includes Garfield County, saying they did so because partly it was unfair to rural patients who might have to travel miles to their local pharmacies to get medications.

The bill is one of six related measures recommended by the Opioid and Other Substance Abuse Disorders Interim Study Committee, which met last summer to discuss the issue.

That panel, of which Tate was a member, recommended this bill and several others:

■ HB1007 requiring all individual and group health benefit plans to similarly restrict certain opioid prescriptions.

■ HB1136 adding residential and inpatient substance abuse disorder services to be eligible for the state’s Medicaid program.

■ SB24 making several changes to the Colorado Health Service Corps Program, including adding grant money to substance abuse providers in underserved areas.

■ SB40 offering liability protection to health care providers who provide clean syringes.

■ HB1003 creating a permanent legislative committee to monitor the issue and recommend changes as needed.

The House measures aren’t scheduled to be discussed in the House Public Health Care and Human Services Committee until late March.

SB22 now heads to the House, while SB24 awaits approval in the Senate Appropriations Committee because of its $2.5 million price tag.

Read full story at TheGJSentinel.com

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