New limits on opioid prescriptions and an overdose prevention law passed by the North Carolina General Assembly were reviewed by a joint committee on healthcare Tuesday, leading the state’s action plan to address the addiction epidemic.
Officials from the state Department of Health and Human Services briefed the Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on Health and Human Services about the implementation of the 2017 STOP Act and its provisions to reduce oversupply and diversion of prescription opioids.
Effective January 1, 2018, the STOP Act will enact limits on first-time prescriptions of targeted controlled substances for acute pain and recovery from surgical procedures. It will not apply to hospitals, nursing homes, hospice facilities or residential care facilities.
“The state House is closely monitoring implementation of new policies to address the opioid epidemic through tighter restrictions on prescriptions, overdose prevention and grant funding for treatment and recovery programs,” said House Speaker Tim Moore.
Speaker Moore also appointed Rep. Greg Murphy, MD, a chief sponsor of the STOP Act, to lead a task force on opioid sentencing reform.
“We are going to look and see if we can come up with a smarter, more intelligent pathway to punish the individuals, but the main goal will be to rehabilitate them and stop them from repeating this cycle of despair,” Murphy told the Greenville Daily Reflector this week.
“The state spends millions and millions on the prison system each year and I think it’s time we became intelligent on how to better spend those resources not only towards rehabilitation but cost savings. It will be a win-win.”
The 2017 state budget also commits $10 million to combat opioid addiction and overdoses across the state over the next two years.
The 2017 STOP Act and a 2013 overdose prevention law serve as cornerstones of North Carolina’s action plan presented by administration officials this week.
In 2013 the North Carolina General Assembly passed a Good Samaritan/Naloxone Access Law to encourage overdose reporting and allow the distribution of naloxone, the overdose prevention drug, so the state can link survivors to care.
This week’s committee hearing detailed the distribution of nearly 40,000 units of naloxone, a life-saving drug for overdose victims, through treatment programs, first responders and emergency management agencies.
Administration officials also presented the allocation of $2,728,727 in State Targeted Response (STR) grant funding for the committee. The grants were distributed through local providers and managed care organizations to address the epidemic.
Finally, the General Assembly passed an H.B.464 Revise Schedule of Controlled Substances in 2017, updating state law to encompass synthetic controlled substances as part of its ongoing effort to address the opioid epidemic.