Opioid-related measures look to reduce drug abuse and overdoses in Hawaii

Opioid related measures look to reduce drug abuse and overdoses in Hawaii
Published: May. 24, 2016 at 1:53 PM HST|Updated: May. 24, 2016 at 2:31 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - As President Barack Obama and the U.S. Congress work to reduce prescription opioid-related abuse nationwide, two bill were passed in the State Legislature this session that are designed to monitor and reduce the number of opioid related overdoses here in Hawaii.

SB 2392  provides immunity to health care providers and pharmacies who prescribe, dispense, and distribute opioid antagonists, such as Nalaxone, that can reverse the effects of opioid-related overdoses.

Naloxone is a non-narcotic that blocks opioids, like heroin and oxycodone, yet has no potential for abuse and side effects are rare. When administered during an overdose, it blocks the effects of opioids and restores breathing within 3 minutes.

"This bill will have substantial impacts in addressing the prescription drug epidemic that is ravaging communities across the country and destroying lives in our own state," said Rep. Della Au Belatti, (Makiki, Tantalus, Papakolea, McCully, Pawaa, Manoa).  "Senate Bill 2392 includes numerous measures that can immediately decrease the number of deaths in the state related to opioid drug overdoses."

Belatti chairs the House Health Committee and was instrumental in moving the bills through the legislature.

If signed into law by Gov. David Ige, beginning on January 1, 2017, the bill authorizes all emergency personnel and first responders such as police officers, firefighters, and lifeguards to administer opioid antagonists.  It would also authorize "harm reduction organizations" such as the CHOW (Community Health Outreach Work) Project to store and distribute opioid antagonists.

"This bill also has a critical public health focus that requires the Department of Health to collect information and report on the trends in unintentional opioid-related drug overdose fatalities that occur each year in the state," Belatti said. "The DOH is also tasked with working with community partners to provide education and training on opioid-related drug overdose prevention, recognition, response, and treatment."

According to the Health Department, between 2010 and 2014 there were 270 reported overdoses in Hawaii.

SB 2915 updates the Uniform Controlled Substances Act to make it consistent with amendments in federal controlled substances law and it also includes several provisions addressing the problem of opioids on our community.

"This bill goes beyond the annual update and adopts numerous measures that are designed to tackle the problem of prescription painkiller medications," Belatti said. "Of particular significance, this bill mandates all practitioners and pharmacies - except veterinarians - to register to use the state's electronic prescription accountability system.

"This will empower practitioners and pharmacists to be able to retrieve the prescription history of their patients to avoid over-prescriptions and assist in designing the most appropriate care and treatment plans for their patients, especially in instances where controlled substance abuse is suspected."

This bill is also awaiting the Governor's signature to become law.

President Obama's fiscal year 2017 budget proposal provides for $1 billion in new funding to address prescription opioid and heroin abuse.

Last week, Congress voted for a package of initiatives designed to address the opioid addiction.

"Opioid addiction and overdose is an epidemic that we can and must address with every possible means as quickly as possible," Belatti said.

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