Attacking the opioid epidemic

Posted by: Abigail Campbell and Kayla King  | Friday, March 16, 2018

This past week, the 2018 legislative session came to an end. Lawmakers from both the House of Representatives and the Senate debated and enacted numerous proposals looking to positively impact the lives of Hoosiers. If both houses came to an agreement on the bills, they were sent to the governor’s desk for further consideration. Our House Republican priorities passed, including K-12 funding, strengthening Indiana’s workforce and expanding access to addiction treatment. Personally, I’ve been working hard to address the pressing issues facing our community. Two top priorities for me were the opioid epidemic and making sure consumers are not prevented from knowing the most cost-effective option for medications. Thankfully, legislation addressing both of these topics have now moved on to the governor for consideration as new laws.

This session we considered and passed multiple steps toward successfully combating our state’s opioid epidemic. Senate Enrolled Act 139, legislation I sponsored, would require county coroners to further investigate suspected overdose deaths. If a coroner reasonably suspects the cause of death is associated with a controlled substance, they would be required to inform Indiana’s prescription monitoring program, or INSPECT, in an effort to gather more information about any potential opioid use by the deceased. They would also be required to conduct post-mortem toxicology tests and blood screenings. The results of their investigation will then be forwarded to the Indiana State Department of Health. With accurate, statewide data, Indiana will be better able to respond to drug overdose by identifying geographic hotspots.

Another major piece of legislation would increase the number of opioid treatment programs in Indiana from 18 to 27. Nine additional certified community mental health centers or general acute care hospitals could be approved by the Division of Mental Health and Addiction to operate a new opioid treatment program after June 30, 2018. House Enrolled Act 1007 specifies each of these new programs be strategically placed throughout the state to ensure all Hoosiers are within an hour-long drive to the treatment they need.

I added an amendment to this bill that will open pathways for employers to assist qualified job applicants who failed a drug screening. If guidelines are developed by the state, employers could soon have the flexibility to hire such an employee and allow them to complete a substance abuse treatment program. For participating companies, the voluntary program would make these employees’ continued employment dependent upon their commitment to their own recovery. This would include following their treatment plan, attending counseling sessions and passing drug tests.

As a pharmacist, one of the measures I have focused a considerable amount of time on this session is House Enrolled Act 1317. This proposal will help consumers save money on their prescription medications by ensuring they are informed of other, more cost-effective options for medication. Some drug benefit contracts currently contain “gag clauses” prohibiting pharmacies from informing patients of an identical prescription they can purchase at lower prices outside their benefit or insurance plan. Prescription affordability even with insurance, is a serious nationwide problem. A 2016 public opinion poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that approximately 26 percent of respondents claim affording their prescription drugs was difficult. An amendment I added to this legislation would create an “anti-gag clause,” so pharmacists could have the freedom to disclose and recommend better medication purchasing options to their customers without repercussions. It would also prevent pharmacy benefit managers from collecting a larger copay from customers than what pharmacies pay for the prescription. This will ensure that the extra money payed does not go back to insurance companies or pharmacy benefit managers as a “clawback”. These are some of the necessary steps to ensure patients have access to information and affordable prescription options.

All three of these bills are awaiting the signature of Gov. Eric Holcomb and, if signed, would go into effect July 1. Even though the session has ended, please continue to contact me with any questions or concerns that may come up. My office can be reached at h73@iga.in.gov or 317-232-9769.

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Rep. Steve Davisson represents Washington County, and portions of Orange, Lawrence, Jackson, Clark and Harrison counties.  

A high-resolution photo of Davisson can be downloaded by clicking here.