The opioid epidemic in our state continues to rise (“Quarter of Michigan counties see rise in opioids,” The Detroit News, July 13). And rise. And rise.

The solution isn’t as simple as locking up abusers; we must attack the problem at the source. We have to make changes because people’s lives are on the line. Opioid overdose is a very avoidable problem, but it’s not going away on its own.

That’s why my colleagues and I introduced a plan for Michigan to help keep people safe and diminish the overwhelming rising statistics.

Under this bill package, we’re requiring more education for young people in school to ensure they understand the danger of these drugs from a young age. Enhanced drug education curriculum will be grade and age appropriate, and based on recommendations from the Prescription Drug and Opioid Abuse Commission.

Furthermore, parental consent will now be required for all controlled-substance prescriptions for minors. There is no question that this change is entirely necessary to protect our children from the hazardous and life-threatening ramifications of addiction.

During an appointment, doctors will now be required to review the risks associated with opioids to both the minor and a parent or guardian when prescribing these potentially dangerous drugs.

But we have to protect more than just our young people, because everyone is equally as susceptible to this dangerous addiction. Our proposed plan includes reforms that allow pharmacists to deny prescriptions they do not believe were written in good faith. All too often we hear reports of pharmacists who did not feel comfortable filling a prescription but were forced to out of fear of legal ramifications.

Gone are those days. Pharmacists should be trusted to use their professional training and experience to determine which prescriptions are signs of abuse.

I have been sober for more than 30 years after struggling with drug and alcohol addiction in my youth. Because of that, I am incredibly proud of this legislation and personally invested in finding solutions. These reforms are a great start, but there’s still much more to be done, and we’re not stopping here.

I look forward to continuing to work with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to find solutions and prevention methods for Michigan’s opioid epidemic.

State Rep. Joe Bellino


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