CHARLESTON — West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey has unveiled proposed legislation to increase police efforts and strengthen prescribing guidelines in the fight against opioid abuse.
The bill would seek an increase in law enforcement and prosecutions, anti-retaliation protection for prescribers, tough prevention measures in Medicaid, mandatory checks of the state’s prescription drug monitoring database and adoption of a three-day limit for all initial opioid prescriptions.
"This package of ideas will significantly reduce opioid abuse in West Virginia,” Morrisey said in a press release. “We must take every necessary step to reduce the amount of pills prescribed within our state. This epidemic has already claimed far too many lives and this proposal continues our commitment to do everything in our power to help West Virginia reach her full potential."
The plan's enforcement surge would add 150 troopers and 50 investigators to the West Virginia State Police. It also would create a drug investigation unit within the AG's office. Combined, these moves could reopen closed police detachments, enhance 24-hour police coverage and authorize the AG's office to assist county prosecutors in the fight against the opioid abuse.
The bill would apply the three-day prescribing limit to treating all forms of acute pain upon initial visit. The AG's office says it recognizes three days as the safest length for an opioid prescription as studies show increased usage a year later among patients who receive larger quantities at the onset.
The AG's office says the anti-retaliation provision would help to eliminate negative consequences inflicted upon prescribers who refuse to prescribe opioid pain medications. Enforcing such a provision would foster an attitude of care over cash among doctors.
The office says a Medicaid abuse prevention component would address the large volume of opioids paid for through the program. It would instruct and authorize the state’s Department of Health and Human Resources to implement reforms that would apply a stricter standard to prescribing opioids covered by Medicaid.
A mandatory check provision would require prescribers to review the state’s controlled substance monitoring database each time they write an opioid prescription as opposed to once annually. The AG's office says this would ensure that prescribers are fully aware of their patient’s prescriptions to assist in making sound decisions and detecting any signs of abuse.