Column: We’re not done on opioids

Joe Bellino

Throughout 2017 the Legislature took steps to increase education about opioids in schools, require parental consent for all controlled-substance prescriptions for minors and allow pharmacists to use their judgment to reject prescriptions they do not believe were written in good faith. I wanted to update you on the continued work we’re doing this year to diminish the impact of opioids on our communities.

In January, some of my colleagues introduced a package of bills establishing a non-opioid directive, similar to a do not resuscitate directive, to allow patients to prevent opioids from being administered or prescribed to them, if that is their wish. Many people who have struggled with addiction must be kept away from opioids at all costs, even in hospital settings.

This measure would allow people to make the choice to eliminate the potential for a relapse. As an addict in recovery for more than 30 years, I know the importance of staying away from addictive drugs at all costs. I was proud to support this measure.

In February, another package was introduced requiring drug overdose treatment training for paramedics, first responders and peace officers. As the opioid abuse epidemic continues, we need to ensure first responders are properly trained to treat an individual suffering from an overdose. I believe this legislation will save lives.

Though the budget has yet be finalized for the 2018-19 fiscal year, my colleagues in the House Health and Human Services Budget Subcommittee have recommended increased funding for fentanyl testing to help us better understand the drug and improve prescribing practices and treatment programs.

This month, I was proud to introduce a bill requiring the use of locking prescription vials for opioids in certain circumstances. The current pill bottle design is only meant to keep small children from opening them but do nothing to prevent pilfering, the act of sneaking a small number of pills hoping that it will go undetected, and the number one source for youth opioid abuse.

Each year, 595,200 children between the ages of 12 and 17 nationwide pilfer from the family medicine cabinet. Low-cost, secure locking prescription vials will ensure addictive prescription drugs are accessible only by those who need them. It is estimated that eliminating pilfering would prevent more than 150,000 Michigan teens from initiating abuse and return $715 million in lost productivity and criminal justice costs to the state’s economy over the next 10 years.

There’s still more to be done. I look forward to working with my colleagues to do all we can to eliminate opioid overdoses in our communities and hometowns across Michigan.

Rep. Joe Bellino represents Michigan’s 17th House district.