October 22, 2021

Bills aim to combat opioid epidemic, increase naloxone access

3 min read

A bipartisan package of bills announced Wednesday aims to combat the opioid epidemic by expanding access to life-saving drugs.

The bill package will be introduced on June 30.

Two bills aim to expand the availability of medications for opioid use disorder (MOUD) in hospital emergency rooms and improve referral to treatment. Under this legislation, hospitals treating over 50 overdoses a year would receive funding to build the capacity to offer MOUDs.

The legislation aims to expand to community organizations the availability of treatment for opioid-use disorder in hospitals as well as community access to naloxone, the reverse-overdose drug.

“This epidemic touches every area of our state and we are losing nearly five Michiganders every single day to opioid overdoses,” Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist said in a statement. “This legislation will help bring us closer to ending this epidemic by expanding access to treatment and to life-saving medications which can increase their chances of a successful recovery and prevent additional tragedies among our families.”

The package follows Michigan drug overdose deaths increasing by at least 16% (185 deaths) in the first six months of 2020, compared to the same period in 2019.

Opioid-related overdose deaths increased from 874 in the first half of 2019 to 1,045 in the same period in 2020, an increase of 20%.

In 2019, total drug overdose deaths decreased by 9.4% to 2,354 deaths, and opioid-related deaths fell by 13.2% to 1,768.

The bills build on existing work to expand treatment in emergency departments since 2019. Currently, 19 hospitals across nine health systems participate.

The package is backed by Republicans Sen. Curt VanderWall, of Ludington, Rep. Mary Whiteford of Casco Township, and Democrats Sen. Winnie Brinks of Grand Rapids and Rep. Angela Witwer of Delta Township.

“Michigan hospitals are committed to being part of the solution to the opioid epidemic that has impacted every community in Michigan,” Michigan Health & Hospital Association CEO Brian Peters said in a statement. “These available resources for hospitals to provide MOUDs within their communities will help ensure patients receive the most appropriate care and treatment for their individual healthcare needs.”

Another bill aims to allow community organizations to access naloxone. 

“Having naloxone on hand can make the difference between someone living or dying from an overdose and getting it into the hands of people who are most likely to be able to save a life is important,” Chief Medical Executive Joneigh Khaldun said in a statement. “Naloxone saves thousands of lives each year by reversing the effects of an opioid overdose and this legislation will help prevent fatal overdoses by distributing naloxone more widely across our state.”

Currently, only pharmacists can dispense naloxone.

“The progress that we’ve seen fighting against the opioid epidemic has been impeded in part due to the immediate public health crisis in COVID-19. It’s important that we continue thinking of those suffering from substance use disorders (SUDs) and their loved ones as we come out of the pandemic,” Brinks said in a statement.

Since 2017, more than 20,000 doses of naloxone have been dispensed.

“Families in Michigan continue to struggle with our opiate crisis,” Whiteford, a former nurse, said in a statement. “My hope is that these bills will move us closer to a state free from the suffering of addiction.”

This article was originally posted on Bills aim to combat opioid epidemic, increase naloxone access

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