Three bills to address the epidemic of opioid abuse ravaging the country were introduced today with backing from a bipartisan cast of state legislators and Attorney General Matt Denn.
The officials were joined at the Legislative Hall announcement by Delawareans who have struggled to find treatment for substance abuse as well as families of those who have died from drug overdoses, calling for immediate action in fighting the state’s substance abuse crisis.
The legislation would expand treatment for substance abuse and better target the over-prescription of opioid drugs.
“Delaware has been harder hit than most states – our drug overdose death rate in 2015 was 12th highest in the country,” said Denn. “Since then, our rate has spiraled even more, thanks in large part to the emergence of fentanyl. In 2015, 228 people died from overdoses in Delaware, up from 224 in 2014. Last year, that number exploded to 308.”
The trio of proposals has the support of Senators Margaret Rose Henry, Stephanie Hansen, David Lawson and Anthony Delcollo, and by Representatives Helene Keeley, Michael Mulrooney, Timothy Dukes and Ruth Briggs King.
One participant in Wednesday’s event shared his story of addiction and recovery, and his difficulties finding treatment. Matt Guthrie was finally able to get help, he said, in 2011. At that time, he became sober “after a full round of treatment, including detox and inpatient treatment. In 2007, the treatment facility told me I wasn’t sick enough yet.”
The first bill would not permit pre-authorization and referral requirements imposed by private insurers to get initial treatment for substance abuse.
“If we intend to be serious about fighting the opioid epidemic in Delaware, then we need to be just as serious about making sure treatment options are readily available to those suffering with addiction,” said Representative Briggs King.
A second measure addresses another major obstacle faced by people addicted to controlled substances, the denial of substance abuse treatment on “medical necessity” grounds – either by being denied outright, sent to an inadequate type of treatment, or cut off from treatment after an inadequate period of time.
“Substance abuse treatment is an important part of helping people reintegrate into society and leading productive lives. Denying people suffering from substance abuse the treatment they need can lead to them relapsing and either ending up in prison or worse,” said Rep. Mulrooney. “Put simply, this bill will help save lives in Delaware.”
The third piece of legislation establishes a new committee to help oversee the prescription drug database.
“This seeks to make better use of the state’s prescription drug database to focus attention on the very small number of doctors in Delaware who are prescribing an enormous percentage of the state’s prescription opiates,” said Denn.
“We are clearly in an opioid epidemic,” said Dr. Karyl Rattay, the state Director of Public Health who represented the Department of Health and Social Services at the event. “In addition to those that have died, tens of thousands in Delaware are struggling with the disease of addiction. They deserve coordinated, effective care. Treatment works and recovery is possible, and these bills will help people get treatment.”
“It’s not the way things are that we should bury our children, from addiction or anything else. We will get ahead of this,” Sen. Lawson said to the families present at Thursday’s event. “With your help, we will get ahead of this…There is no excuse not to get this done.”
Video of the Legislative Hall event announcing the bills can be found on the Delaware Department of Justice Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/DE.AttorneyGeneral.