Opioid Legislation Update: Seventh Circuit

August 2nd, 2017 by CHHS RAs

By CHHS RA Bach Nguyen

Note: This is part of an ongoing series of posts covering recent state legislative efforts to address the nationwide opioid epidemic. The posts are organized by federal judicial circuit, with this post covering the Seventh Circuit. As a reminder, in the federal court system, a circuit court hears appeals from a group of states, usually based on geographical region, though some exceptions exist. In this case, the Seventh Circuit is composed of Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin.

Like Kentucky, many states in the Seventh Circuit are following up on laws passed in 2016, many of which took effect earlier this year. In Illinois, two bills were signed into law last year and took effect on January 1st of this year: HB 5593, which requires licensed treatment facilities to provide more educational information to those seeking treatment for opioid addiction; and HB 5594, which provides that defendants in drug court who need treatment for opioid addiction are required to have treatment by a licensed physician. This year, the Illinois Senate is considering SB 1802, a bill that would amend a number of existing laws to ultimately change insurance plans to list abuse-deterrent opioids as preferred on the plans’ drug lists, making these drugs more affordable and accessible. Abuse-deterrent opioids include drugs like Buprenorphine, which can be used to treat opioid addiction (more information on these drugs can be found here). However, SB 1802 was last considered on January 10th, and does not have another hearing date set as of yet.

Indiana, similar to Illinois, has a number of laws taking effect this year, including a package of laws that expands pharmacists’ scope of practice, including allowing pharmacists to administer several immunizations they were previously unable to administer. Two of those laws address opioids: SB 226 limits first-time opioid prescriptions and prescriptions to children to a 7-day supply, similar to laws in many states including Michigan and Louisiana, and also allows pharmacists to partially fill opioid prescriptions in accordance with the law; SB 392 allows schools to fill prescriptions for and store “emergency medicines” such as Naxolone. The state also recently announced two new developments; first that the state is expanding its opioid addiction treatment programs from 14 to 19, and second, that beginning August 1st, most Indiana Medicaid members will have coverage to use methadone therapy for substance abuse disorders.

Wisconsin suffers from a very high number of opioid related fatalities, as of July 18th having suffered 69 deaths this year alone. As a result, the state has one of the most aggressive stances when it comes to opioid abuse. In April of this year, a new law took effect that would require prescribers to check the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program before prescribing more than a three-day supply of opioids, which is among the strictest limits that we’ve covered thus far. (If you’re interested in what a Prescription Drug Monitoring Program is, check out this blog on Maryland’s PDMP.)

There is also a package of bills combating the opioid epidemic, passed during a special session earlier this year and 11 of which were signed July 17th. The bills enjoyed broad bipartisan support, and include:

  • AB 1, which grants legal protections to school employees and volunteers that administer Narcan or other overdose reversal drugs;
  • AB 2/SB 2, which gives counties more than $2 million annually for two years to treat people with drug or alcohol offenses instead of sending them to jail;
  • AB 3, which grants legal protections to those who overdose on drugs when authorities assist them pursuant to the law, under the condition that they seek drug treatment, in order to motivate people to call for help instead of fearing prosecution;
  • AB 4, which requires that certain Schedule V drugs, certain codeine and opium, always require a prescription to be dispensed, where previously there were some cases where those drugs did not require a prescription;
  • AB 5, which expands voluntary and involuntary commitment programs for drug dependance;
  • AB 6, which creates a charter school for students struggling with addiction;
  • AB 7, which provides $63,000 over two years for the Department of Health Services to provide grants to hospitals to hire addiction specialists;
  • AB 8, which establishes two or three additional treatment programs and increases funding for these programs by $1 million annually;
  • AB 9 provides $500,000 annually for addiction experts to train clinicians on treating addition;
  • AB 10/SB 10 provides the Department of Justice with $420,000 annually to support special agent positions directed towards investigating drug trafficking; and lastly,
  • AB 11 will provide $100,000 for two years to create a mental health training program for school teachers, where there exist programs under the same umbrella that deal with substance abuse education.

The Seventh Circuit states are making significant strides towards combating the opioid epidemic. Wisconsin’s package of laws in particular is among the most broad and comprehensive legislative efforts in the nation, ranging from expanding treatment and education, to limiting access to opioids and other drugs, to strengthening law enforcement against drug trafficking. While Indiana’s law granting pharmacists more power may encroach on some medical doctors’ authority, most of the laws in the Seventh Circuit avoid alienating the professions on the front lines of the opioid epidemic, which will likely go a long way towards fixing the crisis.

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