New law shows CT serious about combating opioid crisis

Below is a column written by by Sen. Tony Hwang.

1,078.

That’s how many people who will likely die from drug overdoses in Connecticut this year.

The state Office of the Chief Medical Examiner made that alarming projection this week.

It’s an astounding 300 percent rise from 2012.

From Newtown to New Canaan to New London, the opioid crisis is raging in all of our communities.

And it’s killing our friends, neighbors and relatives at a skyrocketing rate.

A new state law, the product of a comprehensive and thoughtful bill that I was proud to co-sponsor during this year’s legislative session, seeks to combat the scourge on a variety of fronts.

The new law makes several changes to prevent and treat opioid drug abuse, including:

  • Requiring individual and group health insurers to cover medically necessary detox treatments
  • Requiring a treatment facility to use admissions criteria developed by the American Society of Addiction Medicine, which urges admission regardless of health status or addiction levels
  • Limiting access to controlled substances by allowing certain registered nurses employed by home health care agencies to destroy or dispose of them
  • Requiring practitioners, when prescribing opioids, to discuss with all patients, rather than only minors, the risks associated with opioid drug use
  • Reducing, from a seven day supply to a five day supply, the maximum amount of an opioid drug a practitioner may prescribe to a minor
  • Requiring prescriptions for controlled substances to be electronically transmitted – with a few exceptions including if the prescriber demonstrates that they do not have the technological capacity
  • Creating a standing order — a non-patient specific prescription to licensed pharmacists to prescribe the life-saving drug Naloxone, sold under the brand name Narcan.

The Naloxone aspect of the new law serves as a reminder as to why this is an ongoing battle which we can never stop fighting.

Prior to 2014, for example, only paramedics were allowed to carry and use Naloxone. I advocated on behest of local fire and police first responders and worked with the Connecticut Department of Public Health to help make a necessary ‘scope of practice’ change while ensuring the highest standard of quality assurance through training. That policy change provided new tools for more of our first responders to save lives and prevent tragedies.

I invite residents to help me fight this battle. Send me your ideas and suggestions for future legislation and policy changes to address this ongoing public health emergency. Send me your thoughts at [email protected] or call me at 800-842-1421.

Sen. Hwang represents Easton, Fairfield, Newtown, Weston and Westport. On the web: SenatorHwang.com.

Senator Tony Hwang

Senator Tony Hwang

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