Oregon Passes Legislation to Combat the Opioid Crisis

We are pleased to report great strides were made to help reduce the more than 280 million pills in circulation each year in Oregon, promote safe and effective pain management and expand access to opioid use disorder treatment and naloxone for overdose rescue at the close of the 2017 legislative session. A trio of bills providing a range of comprehensive measures to address opioid abuse, misuse and overdose were introduced at the beginning of the year.

We’d like to express our gratitude and thank our Multnomah County partners for their leadership, OrCRM faculty for their expertise and testimony before the House Health and Senate Health Committees and moms Kerry Strickland, Jackie Jones and Julia Pinsky who shared their story of loss to help move these bills forward.

The good news

HB 3440 was amended in committee to include HB 2518 and passed unanimously in the House and then finally in the Senate on the last day of the regular session. HB 3440 includes life-saving measures to prevent opioid overdose and promote recovery and safe opioid prescribing. HB 3440 removes current barriers that limit the widespread availability of the opioid overdose rescue medication, naloxone, eliminates insurance barriers to medications that relieve opioid withdrawal and ensures offenders supervised by drug courts will not be denied access to medication assisted treatment for opioid use disorder.

Other provisions improve monitoring, oversight and provider education by allowing medical and pharmacy directors to access Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP) data and by establishing the Prescription Monitoring Program Prescribing Practices Review Subcommittee to identify and educate healthcare providers that prescribe opioids unsafely. Also, the PDMP will begin to capture the amount of naloxone dispensed in retail pharmacies and the Oregon Health Authority will make an easily searchable directory or drug treatment available to the public.

The bad news

HB 2645 did not pass. This bill would have to made it as easy to get rid of leftover pills as it is to get the pills in the first place by establishing a disposal system for leftover prescription drugs. We appreciate the efforts made by the Oregon Association of Counties, Oregon Association of Cities, Multnomah County, advocates and other partners to support this legislation.

We continue to believe the modest cost of safe medication disposal is a small price to pay for stemming the tide of opioid abuse. Getting leftover pills out of medicine cabinets that fuel abuse remains a priority for OrCRM – over 75% of people who become dependent on opioids report they first started with pills they got from a friend or family member. OrCRM will continue to provide leadership on the issue.