Four Delawareans died this past weekend as a result of heroin overdoses. Recent online reports also note the number of opioid overdoses in Delaware increased from 228 in 2015 to 308 in 2016, which includes an increase of fatal overdoses by 35% last year. As of 2016, the Center for Disease Control reported 160,000 people have died from drug overdoses in the past 15 years, while 7.9 million Americans continue their struggles with the vicious disease of addiction.
While campaigning for state senate, I met a variety of Delawareans, from all walks of life, covering multiple professions, races and religions. Tragically, reports of drug overdoses, addiction, and illegal drug related activity united many of these diverse individuals.
The situation in Delaware regarding addiction has reached a crisis level. Delawareans deserve better. The time to act is now, which is why I am co-prime sponsoring three bills—authored by Attorney General Matt Denn—aimed at making the path to recovery for some Delawareans a smoother and more navigable process.
The first bill aims to reduce overdose deaths by requiring insurance carriers to provide coverage to those suffering from addiction, without the imposition of prior authorization or precertification screenings. The legislation also requires carriers to provide a 14-day inpatient coverage period, compared to the current 5-10 day carrier-approved coverage period. In countless conversations, families reference “fail first” policies, which require a person’s situation to be dire in order to receive preauthorized coverage to attain the detox medications and treatment necessary for their recovery. This only exacerbates the situation. In many cases, effected individuals must effectively retreat back to their addictive behaviors in order to qualify for proper coverage for much needed treatment. This bill is geared towards addressing these concerns.
The second bill allows the Delaware Department of Justice (DOJ) to provide legal assistance to persons seeking state-sponsored Medicaid or employer-funded health benefits and requires carriers to provide notice to persons denied substance abuse treatments about the availability of DOJ legal assistance. The bill permits the DOJ to use its Consumer Protection Fund to offset the financial burdens of assisting persons seeking treatment by way of a DOJ appeals process. This bill also includes a sunset provision that would allow the General Assembly to have this measure expire if it should somehow have unintended and undesirable consequences. The bill represents a leap forward in providing individuals whose coverage is denied an equal voice in the appeals process.
The third bill, which is yet to be introduced in final form, creates an oversight committee for the prescription drug database. The purpose of the bill is to provide the Office of Controlled Substances the means necessary to effectively target over-prescribers in violation of professional regulations and take requisite action. It is imperative to effectively track a patient’s prescription history and prohibit over-prescription of opioids. This measure would utilize a database and written guidelines to offer doctors support to prevent the illegitimate prescription of opioids.
Collectively, all three measures are necessary first steps towards addressing the needs of a significant portion of the more than 90,000 Delawareans currently suffering from addiction.
We mustn’t fail to provide safety-nets for those in need of immediate treatment, and we must work to ensure current policies align with the increasing needs of Delawareans affected by addiction.
I’m proud to support the Attorney General’s legislation and applaud him for leading this effort. We cannot continue to operate in a vacuum when addressing addiction, and I am committed to working with my colleagues to aggressively pursue solutions to improve the lives of almost 100,000 Delawareans affected by this horrific disease.