Senate Unanimously Adopts Bill to Combat Opioid Epidemic

File PhotoState Sen.Ted Kennedy, Jr., (D-Branford), last night led a unanimous bi-partisan state senate to adopt a series of major policy changes in how the state fights an ongoing opioid crisis. Kennedy, a health care attorney, said the bill will transform the way Connecticut fights the opioid epidemic on a variety of fronts. 

The new bill law establishes a “standing order” model, which will make it easier for friends and family members of opioid addicts to obtain Narcan, the life-saving opioid overdose reversal medication. It also requires doctors to reduce the maximum opioid prescription for minors from seven days to five unless the doctor can document the need for an extended prescription. 

An increase in prescriptions for opioid painkillers by doctors has led to a dramatic increase in people addicted to heroin and other opioids, Kennedy said. There were 917 fatal overdoses in Connecticut during 2016, an increase of 26 percent over the previous year, and the vast majority of these involved opioids.

“Every family is touched by addiction in some way and knows the pain the disease can cause to those living with it and the people who love them. The national opioid epidemic has made the realities more true and painful than ever and we need to do everything we can to save lives and help people get better,” said Kennedy. “This bill makes important policy changes that will limit the risk of opioid addiction among all Connecticut residents. By establishing a standing order and improving access to detox and treatment facilities, we are giving families the tools they need to pull a loved one back from the opioid addiction so they can seek recovery.”

The bill, which passed in the House, is expected to be signed into law by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy.

Scanlon’s Landmark Law

This is the latest effort by the state to combat the growing opioid epidemic. Rep. Sean Scanlon (D-Guilford and Branford) praised last night’s Senate passage. In 2015, he co-sponsored Public Act 15-198, a landmark law that required education for doctors and other prescribers on prescription drug abuse, cracked down on “doctor shopping” for prescription drugs, and allowed pharmacists to prescribe life-saving anti-overdose drugs like Narcan over the counter.

In 2016, Scanlon wrote and sponsored legislation making Connecticut the second state in the nation to limit first-time opioid prescriptions to a seven-day supply with exemptions for chronic pain as a way of reducing the number of unused and expired drugs in our communities. That seven-day limit is now reduced to five days under the latest bill.

Narcan is now carried and used by paramedics when required.

Scanlon said, “As I say each year, there is no silver bullet solution to this crisis but I truly believe we are making progress and for as long as I have this job, I will never stop fighting to get those struggling with addiction help and working to combat this epidemic.”

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