$1 for 3 months. Save 97%.
$1 for 3 months. Save 97%.

New Michigan laws boost access to opioid overdose drugs

Jonathan Oosting

Lansing – Michigan residents and schools will have an easier time obtaining life-saving medication to reverse opioid drug overdoses under a series of bipartisan bills Lt. Gov. Brian Calley signed into law Wednesday.

The House legislation allows pharmacists to dispense opioid antagonists without a prescription under a standing order from the state’s chief medical executive.

A separate Senate package will give school boards the option to obtain a prescription for an opioid antagonist to be administered by a school nurse or other trained employee in case of a student overdose.

“Protecting the health and safety of Michiganders by working to reduce opioid addiction and overdose deaths continues to be a priority, but addiction is still on the rise so there is still a lot of work to do,” Calley said in a statement. “Increasing access to medications that prevent overdose deaths is a common-sense reform that will save lives.”

The new laws are a response to what has been called a prescription pain killer “epidemic” gripping Michigan and other states. They are based on recommendations made last year by the Prescription Drug & Opioid Abuse Task Force chaired by Calley.

More people died from drug overdoses in 2014 than any other year on record, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and the majority of the overdose deaths involved an opioid, including pain killers and heroin.

Calley signed the bills Wednesday because Gov. Rick Snyder was out of the state “spending time with his family,” said Snyder spokeswoman Anna Heaton.

The school-related measures, introduced by Sens. Jim Ananich and Dale Zorn, include specific requirements a district must meet to obtain a prescription for naxalone, an anti-overdose drug.

The district must have at least two employees trained on administering the drug, as approved by a licensed nurse. Schools must also call 911 if they believe a student is having an overdose and notify parents if they administer the drug.

“The opioid epidemic has claimed the lives of far too many young people, so if we can save a single life by making naloxone more accessible in schools, that’s a success,” said Ananich, D-Flint, who worked on the bipartisan task force.

Michigan ranks 10th in the nation for per-capita opioid pain killer prescriptions and No. 18 in the nation for overdose deaths, according to the task force report prepared last year.

Calley also signed 11 other bills into law on Wednesday, including a measure to prohibit local governments from banning plastic bags, a pre-emptive strike against a Washtenaw County ordinance opposed by statewide business groups.

Another new law creates new criminal penalties for profiting off of tissue from an aborted fetus. Michigan already prohibited fetal tissue sales, but the new statute specifies a physician or employee “shall not knowingly financially benefit” from a transaction or exchange. Violators could face a maximum of five years in prison.