Gov. Dannel P. Malloy today announced that in his package of proposals to be unveiled later this month, he will propose legislation to combat substance abuse and opioid overdose in Connecticut. The legislation will help curb heroin and prescription opioid abuse through more streamlined prescription reporting, continued education requirements for practitioners, and greater availability of the overdose reversing drug naloxone in case of emergency.
“I’ve been clear that, as a state, we need to be smarter about how we approach punishment with our drug laws. But we also need to be more diligent about preventing addiction in the first place. That’s why we’re proposing legislation that will ensure health care professionals check accurate, real-time data to help them make smart decisions and curb potential abuse,” Malloy said. “Opioid abuse has historically been viewed as an isolated problem, but trends from across the nation demonstrate that it is affecting communities, both large and small. Connecticut is taking smart, preventative action to streamline processes and prevent potential addiction.”
Signs of abuse
Substance use disorders, and in particular opioid addiction cases, often begin with a prescription for a legitimate medical reason. A recent national report found that nearly half the people who took painkillers for over 30 days in the study’s first year were still using them three years later – a sign of potential abuse.
“This legislation will give providers the tools they need to help save lives,” said Lt. Governor Nancy Wyman. “Reducing the potential for addiction – and identifying dangerous behavior — is key to intervention. In conjunction with other resources, this proposal can help residents who struggle with addiction get the support and services they need to get healthy.”
To combat addiction, Malloy’s legislation will streamline the process to help practitioners identify potential abuse by alerting them if patients seeking certain prescriptions have recently received these medications from multiple other prescribers or pharmacists. The proposal requires all pharmacies in Connecticut to report the dispensing of prescriptions for all controlled substances immediately – rather than weekly – through the state’s prescription monitoring program (PMP), helping ensure that prescribers have accurate, real-time data for treatment decisions.
It also requires any prescriber supplying more than a 72-hour supply of a controlled substance to review the patient’s record in the PMP, allowing emergency departments and others prescribing very short term prescriptions the expediency they need while working to prevent potential abuse for longer-term prescriptions.
Further, in cases of overdose or medical emergency, the legislation saves lives by making naloxone – a drug that reverses overdoses – more widely available, allowing pharmacists, after being trained and certified through the Department of Consumer Protection, to prescribe it to Connecticut families, first responders, and the treatment community across the state.
The legislation also requires more education on the issue for medical professionals as part of the existing process for them to renew their licenses. It also reconstitutes the Alcohol and Drug Policy Council, led by the Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services and the Department of Children and Families, to focus on addiction in Connecticut and inform the Governor and General Assembly on future policy changes and public awareness strategies necessary to combat addiction.
Good Samaritan laws passed in 2012 have encouraged more people to call 9-1-1 in order to save the life of a friend or loved one who may be overdosing. Third-party prescription laws passed in 2014 now allow practitioners to prescribe naloxone to anyone who can treat or prevent a drug overdose, such as family members or friends of suspected opioid abusers, a practice that has saved countless lives. Moreover, Connecticut State Police now universally carry naloxone in their cruisers, a step which has saved 13 lives in the months since implementation in October 2014.