Kentucky lawmakers have passed several health-related bills to deal with the opioid epidemic, and could pass several more

By Melissa Patrick
Kentucky Health News

FRANKFORT, Ky. – The 2017 General Assembly has passed several bills meant to put more “tools in the toolbox” as the state works to combat its growing opioid epidemic.

And several more are in the pipeline to pass when lawmakers come back March 29 and 30. Those two days are provided to reconsider any bills Gov. Matt Bevin vetoes, but legislation in the pipeline can also get initial passage. It would be subject to a veto without the opportunity for an override.

Opioid-related bills that have passed:

House Bill 314, sponsored by Rep. Danny Bentley, R-Russell, would require hospitals to report positive drug tests to the Cabinet for Health and Family Services,, including results from newborn babies if the provider thinks they have been exposed to drugs. This data would be entered into the KASPER (Kentucky All Schedule Prescription Electronic Reporting) database and would give federal prosecutors, medical professionals and pharmacists access to the system.

The bill would also require hospitals and emergency departments to report all drugs with a high potential for abuse that are dispensed to patients during their stay, exempting Schedule III and IV drugs if they are dispensed for a maximum of 48 hours and not dispensed by a hospital’s emergency department. The bill also requires the reporting of all positive drug tests conducted in an ER. This bill has passed both houses and been delivered to the governor.

HB 158, sponsored by Rep. Kim Moser, R-Taylor Mill, brings state controlled-substance listings into compliance with federal policy. This bill has been delivered to the governor.

Senate Bill 32, sponsored by Sen. Danny Carroll, R-Paducah, would require the Administrative Office of the Courts to forward drug-conviction data to the health cabinet for inclusion in KASPER. This bill has been delivered to the governor.

Likely to pass: 

HB 333, sponsored by Moser, would limit painkiller prescriptions such as oxycodone and morphine to a three-day supply if prescribed for acute pain, with exceptions for the terminally ill and some other circumstances.

The bill would also increase jail time for those who deal in the synthetic opioid pain killer fentanyl or any derivative of it, as well as carfentanil, which is used as an elephant tranquilizer. It would make it a felony to bring any amount of fentanyl, fentanyl derivative, or carfentanil into the state for sale or distribution. And it would create a felony offense for those who misrepresent a controlled substance including fentanyl, fentanyl derivatives or carfentanil as a legitimate prescription drug.

Also, HB 333 would ease penalties for those found guilty of selling less than two grams of heroin and excludes cannabidoiol, or CBD, products from the definition of marijuana under state law if the products are approved as a prescription medication by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. This bill passed the House and a Senate committee and is in the Senate Judiciary Committee with two readings.

HB 305, sponsored by Moser, is meant to improve treatment options and costs associated with involuntary treatment for alcohol and drug addiction under Casey’s Law.

The bill would allow a judge to order a person to undergo treatment for up to a year with the option of an additional year, and limit the costs that could be incurred by a family member or friend who asks the court to order involuntary treatment for a loved one, among other provisions. This bill unanimously passed the House, passed a Senate committee and is now on the Senate floor.

HB 308, sponsored by Rep. Addia Wuchner, R-Florence, would require Kentucky health insurers to have at least two abuse-deterrent opioid painkillers in their formulary and prohibit the substitution or dispensing of an equivalent drug product without documentation from the prescribing provider.

Abuse-deterrent opioid analgesic drugs cannot be crushed, snorted, or injected by drug abusers as readily as other opioids can. This bill passed the House and a Senate committee and has had one reading in the Senate. Bills need three readings on separate days before they can get a floor vote.

HB 145, sponsored by Rep. James Tipton, R-Taylorsville, would require age-appropriate physical and health education instruction about prescription-opioid abuse prevention and the connection between abuse and addiction to other drugs. This bill unanimously passed the House, passed a Senate committee and is on the Senate floor with two readings.

HB 454, Rep. Johnathan Shell, R-Lancaster, would require the Kentucky Department of Education and others to develop an age-appropriate drug awareness and prevention program and would require local school boards to ensure that students receive annual instruction in drug awareness and prevention, starting next academic year. The bill passed the House and a Senate committee, and resides in the Senate Education Committee with two readings.

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