OLYMPIA – Today, the State House took steps to fight the opioid epidemic in Washington State. The dramatic increase in opiate addiction over the past decade demands an urgent and collaborative response from cities, counties, the state, and the federal government.
Legislation passed today expands access to the Prescription Monitoring Program which is an online database run by the Department of Health to keep records on the type and number of prescriptions dispensed.
“The more knowledge we have on opioids being prescribed, the more ability our state has to combat issues where one patient receives multiple prescriptions from different physicians,” said Rep. Strom Peterson (D-Edmonds).
“One large obstacle to participation in the prescription monitoring program has been a lengthy registration process for prescribers,” said Rep. Brady Walkinshaw (D-Seattle). “As a result only 30% of prescribers are actually using it.”
The change will increase the transparency of opioids given out in our state, helping us get the data needed to treat the crisis.
Rep. Walkinshaw and Rep. Peterson are also moving forward bipartisan legislation that addresses the high rates of opioid overdoses as individuals re-enter society after incarceration.
Under current law, when an individual is incarcerated for 30 days, they face a termination in their Medicaid. This termination means that when individuals re-enter society after serving time it often takes months to re-enroll in Medicaid.
HB 2850 (Walkinshaw) and bipartisan Senate legislation SB 6430 (Parlette) addresses changes the Medicaid termination to a suspension so people re-entering society get immediate access to healthcare.
“We’re seeing very high rates of overdoses for people re-entering society after time in incarceration,” said Rep. Walkinshaw. “This simple change allows individuals to get immediate access to medication-assisted treatment and community-based mental health services. It’s a commonsense change that will effect access to care for thousands of people in our state.”
“This bill, at almost no cost to the state, allows us to access federal Medicaid funds at a crucial time for people re-entering society,” said Rep. Peterson. “I am thrilled to see the bipartisanship on this effort.”
These bills are a result of an interim task force convened by Representatives Walkinshaw and Peterson to tackle the opiate crisis in Washington State.
The task force builds on the success of HB 1671 (Walkinshaw) which dramatically expanded access to naloxone in places from homeless shelters and supportive living facilities to police departments.
There are additional areas in the State’s supplemental operating budget where additional funding is needed for services delivered by county public health departments.