Tag: addiction laws

The Newest & Most Surprising Anti-Heroin Bill

Illinois is Shaking Things Up

As the prescription opioid and heroin epidemic rage across the country, few areas are harder hit than the Midwest. States like Michigan, Ohio, and Illinois are suffering hundreds of deaths, and thousands more overdoses, each year.

heroin abuse laws

Consider that in 2013 alone 583 Illinois residents passed away as a result of heroin overdose. That isn’t taking into account painkillers or any other prescription medication fatalities. This number jumped to well over 600 in 2014.

So, when it comes time to fight back, these states have historically taken a unique and proactive approach. In late May, the Illinois State Senate continued this trend. They passed a bill with several innovative approaches to fighting opioid abuse.

The bill, House Bill 1, is now sitting on the desk of Governor Bruce Rauner and awaiting his signature. It remains to be seen whether he’ll sign it into law.

Already, though, there are rumblings from policy makers about the proposed cost. No one is sure exactly how much the bill would cost taxpayers, but estimates place it between $25 and $58 million.

That’s a large chunk of change! Critics are also concerned about the shifting attitude around drug abuse. HB1 comes on the heels of medical marijuana legislation that was passed on the very same day.

Regardless, the people of Illinois have spoken. HB1, passed in a sweeping Senate vote after being passed in an equally landslide House vote, is what Illinois citizens want.

Senator Dan Kotowski, a sponsor of the bill, believes in its potential to do good. When asked about it, he responded,

“We’re moving forward in the right direction to be able to protect children and families from the ravages of heroin abuse…I think it’s a very essential and pivotal way of addressing this heroin epidemic” (Chicago Tribune).

Illinois isn’t the only state to shake things up with heroin laws. Find out how New Jersey is making waves with their laws!

What Does HB1 Actually Do?

It’s one thing to say a bill is sweeping and progressive. It’s another to see it in action. How HB1 will fair in action remains to be seen (if it’s even signed into law). For now, though, let’s take a look at what this piece of legislation proposes.

The bill focuses on a few major areas. First, it would expand drug courts and jail diversion programs. Rather than locking up heroin addicts, they’ll be shuttled into treatment programs.

HB1 will require many first responders to carry Narcan (naloxone). This increase in access would be funded through a grant program and give Narcan to police, paramedics, fire fighters, and possibly school nurses.

Next, the bill would create parity between Medicaid and private insurance. Basically, HB1 would require state Medicaid programs to pay for addiction treatment. It would also require those payouts to be on par with private insurance.

Finally, HB1 would institute a prescription drug disposal program. Although the details on this particular program remain vague, it would be some sort of collaboration between local agencies (police, etc.) and citizens.

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Critics of the Bill

I mentioned above that HB1 isn’t without its fair share of criticism. Although the bill was passed in the senate with an overwhelming majority (only four senators voted against it), it isn’t universally popular.

Critics of the bill argue that these proposed measures are merely preventative and don’t target the causes and conditions of addiction. They argue that policies should be enacted to help identify the underlying reasons people use heroin in the first place.

Perhaps this argument stems from the high cost of HB1. Remember, the final price tag isn’t set in stone, but it’s thought to cost the state around $40 million. This is coming on the heels of an already astronomical budget deficit (over $3 billion).

Still, for all the critics out there, the majority of officials and citizens are in support of anything that can help stem the tide of heroin deaths. Senator Michael Connelly echoed this sentiment. He said,

“Yes, there are concerns about how we pay for this and how we pay for that…tell that to the parents in my town. Tell that to the parents throughout the state, whose children’s lives have spiraled out of control, and they lose their child” (Chicago Tribune).

It’s clear Illinois needs a solution. This bill looks like a mighty good one to me.

Learn about the changing face of heroin abuse & overdose…

New Jersey Laws Seek to End Heroin Epidemic

New Jersey Laws Target Opioids & Overdose

In the fight against heroin and prescription painkillers, few states have battled as hard as New Jersey. Often regarded as New York’s younger sibling, New Jersey has been in the limelight frequently over the past decade thanks to a skyrocketing number of opioid addicts.

Consider that upwards of 5,000 New Jersey residents have overdosed and died during the last decade.

christ christie
image via AdWeek

Consider that 741 people overdosed and died in 2013 alone. New Jersey officials say that number is likely to rise once 2014’s figures are released. So, what’s being done to stop this scourge of heroin and painkillers?

Well, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has long been a vocal supporter of innovate approaches to treating substance abuse. He continued this patter when, on February fifth, he signed into law three bills aimed at increasing heroin and painkiller treatment.

The laws, which I’ll touch on below, are the first step in a revolutionary, statewide shift. New Jersey is poised to move from a state decimated by opioid addiction and overdose, to a state at the forefront of the medical and social treatment of addiction.

In fact, State Senator Joseph Vitale, who first introduced these bills, had the following to say about New Jersey and Christie –

“It’s been years since this [opioid addiction and overdose] has been a crisis. The solutions and the ways to treat people suffering from it are going to take time to implement, but these are significant steps” (NJ.com)

Learn why there’s no difference between pain pills and heroin

What Do The New Laws Say?

The bills that Gov. Christie signed into law promise real change in the often fraught world of opioid addiction. Sounds good to me! But what do they actually say? What specifically are these new laws?

The first law offers increased immunity to first responders who administer Narcan, a popular “anti-overdose” medication. These are people like police officers, paramedics, needle exchange program workers, and many others who interact frequently with heroin and painkiller addicts.

Narcan has a pretty good track record in saving New Jersey residents’ lives. Since March of 2014, when Narcan use first became popular, it’s reversed upwards of 800 overdoses. That’s 800 saved lives!

Gov. Christie, in a statement, had the following to say about Narcan –

“Today, we are cementing in our laws those same protections for our first responders who are doing this incredible, lifesaving work every day under our statewide Narcan program. By doing so, we will have an even greater ability to save lives, reverse the effects of overdose and prevent tragedies with this life-saving treatment” (NJ.com).

The second law will require treatment centers to submit regular performance reports to the Department of Human Services. This will help to streamline the care offered at rehabs across the state. This’ll also cut down on the use of non-evidence based practices. These are things like equine therapy, which, while certainly helpful, doesn’t have a scientific basis.

The third law requires state jails to offer addiction and mental health services to inmates. Inmates will now be offered treatment by “the agency with the most appropriate expertise and experience” (Bill S-2380).

Not only will this offer increased mental health and substance abuse treatment to inmates, it will also allow the Division of Mental Health and Addiction Services oversight in New Jersey’s jails. This is a wonderful step towards jails offering real rehabilitation, rather than simply housing criminals.

Michael Botticelli, the new White House Drug Czar, had the following to say about recent changes in how America is treating addiction –

“We have made important progress against the raise of prescription drug misuse and related deaths since we released our plan in 2011, but much more work lies ahead of us” (NJ.com).

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The Future of N.J. Drug Policy

Speaking of the continued work Botticelli mentioned above, New Jersey has many more drug reform bills currently in the state legislator.

State Senator Joseph Vitale didn’t only introduce the three bills Gov. Christie signed into law, he introduced a total of twenty-one bills this past fall. While a complete list of all twenty-one would be far too long for this article, find some below.

  • S-2366

This would require general practitioners to inform patients of the dangers inherent to various prescription drugs (notably many opioids).

  • S-2368

This would increase New Jersey state funding for addiction prevention by $5 million.

new jersey drug policy

  • S-1998 & A-3129

These would require all physicians to register for the Prescription Monitoring Program. This allows law enforcement to identify addicts going to multiple doctors and doctors who are overprescribing opioids.

  • S-2372 & A-1436

These would create a Statewide Opioid Law Enforcement Task Force. Their job would be to investigate and prosecute those involved in the distribution of opioids.

These would found the Behavioral Health Insurance Claim Advocacy Program, which would offer assistance and advocacy with insurance claims for those seeking addiction or mental illness treatment.

  • S-2377

This would require all colleges in New Jersey to offer substance abuse recovery housing options (think a “dry dorm,” but one that’s actually dry).

Click here to view a complete list of all the bills Vitale introduced!

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