For Immediate Release: January 21, 2015
Contacts: Office of the Governor: Rachel Thomas, (804) 225-4262, Rachel.Thomas@governor.virginia.gov

Six Bills Addressing Prescription Drug and Heroin Abuse Introduced

~Governor McAuliffe recognizes Task Force Members for their Work~

 

Governor McAuliffe today recognized the work of the Task Force on Prescription Drug and Heroin Abuse, which has produced six pieces of legislation addressing heroin and opiate abuse to be considered during the 2015 General Assembly. 

“Thanks to Attorney General Mark Herring and members of my Cabinet for bringing this important issue to the attention of the legislature,” Governor McAuliffe said. “I deeply appreciate the work by members of the Task Force and legislative patrons in support of these bills, which represent significant steps toward combating the serious health and public safety impacts of opiate abuse in the Commonwealth.” 

Established under Executive Order 29 on September 26, 2014, the Governor’s Task Force is co-chaired by Secretary of Health and Human Resources, Dr. William A. Hazel, Jr., M.D., and Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security Brian Moran. The objectives of the Task Force are organized into five topics: education, addiction treatment, data and monitoring, prescription drug storage and disposal, and enforcement. 

The following legislative recommendations from the Task Force are being patroned by Delegates John O’Bannon, Charniele Herring, and Keith Hodges, who are all members of the Task Force, along with Senators Jennifer Wexton and Bill Carrico. 

  •       HB1458 –Increases access to naloxone, a safe and effective rescue drug for opiate overdose, by allowing lay rescuers, law enforcement officers, and firefighters to possess and administer naloxone.  The bill also provides immunity from civil damages for anyone who, in good faith, administers naloxone to an individual experiencing an overdose, and states that naloxone can be dispensed by pharmacists according to a standing protocol. 
  •       HB1810   –Protects data in the Prescription Monitoring Program (PMP) from being used inappropriately in civil proceedings. The PMP is a vital tool for health care providers in making safe treatment and prescribing decisions.
  •       HB1841  –Facilitates registration of prescribers and dispensers with the Prescription Monitoring program.
  •       HB1732 –Reduces the ability of individuals to obtain controlled substances by filling prescriptions for Hospice patients who have already died.
  •       HJ622 –Createsa study of drug diversion programs and their effectiveness.
  •       SB 1035 - Significantly increases the punishment for drug dealers when a death occurs as the direct result of illegal drug distribution.  Under the felony-murder doctrine, a drug dealer would face a minimum sentence of five years, up to a maximum of 40 years, in prison. 

“Dr. Hazel and I, and all the Task Force members, sincerely thankthelegislators who agreed to sponsor thesecritically important bills,” Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security Moran said.A strong message must be sent to those who illegally sell drugs: They will bear the responsibility in the deadly chain of drug abuse.” 

“The bipartisan group of legislators who serve on the Task Force truly understand the sense of urgency needed to address the alarming rise in opiate overdoses in the Commonwealth,” said Secretary of Health and Human Resources Dr. William Hazel. “We can save more lives by expanding the naloxone pilot program and getting this safe and effective rescue drug in the hands of those who are first on the scene of an overdose.” 

The Task Force was created as part of Governor McAuliffe’s A Healthy Virginia plan, in response to a significant increase in opioid and heroin overdose deaths in Virginia.  The Task Force will release a comprehensive implementation plan for its recommendations in June.

 

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