Bills to stop opioid epidemic progress

Patrick Sison
This Tuesday, Aug. 15, 2017, photo shows an arrangement of pills of the opioid oxycodone-acetaminophen in New York. (AP Photo/Patrick Sison)

Three bills sponsored by Rep. Steve Eliason, R-Sandy, to prevent drug addiction and aid in addiction recovery progress through the Legislature.

HB399 and HB400

HB399 and its companion bill HB400 address the rising issue of opioid addiction in Utah. Eliason said currently upwards of 600 Utahn’s die per year from an opioid overdose.

If passed, HB399 will require pharmacies to put a label on opioid bottles addressing the risk of overdose and addiction. It would also require pamphlets to be available with information outlining risks, alternative options for pain management and resources for help with addiction.

Sheila Walsh-McDonald spoke on behalf of Utah’s Department of Health in favor of HB399. She said the department implemented a similar project with pharmacists the year before to inform consumers.

“We look forward to the opportunity to further inform consumers on this issue and the risk of opioids,” Walsh-McDonald said.

HB400 would require the physician initially prescribing opioids to discuss potential risks with the patient.

Eliason said 80 percent of current heroin addicts started with prescribed medication.

“If we don’t better educate our public, we should have no surprise downstream (when) we have innocent people addicted,” Eliason said.

Rep. Edward Redd, R-Logan, said he fully supported the idea of the bill, and thinks the efforts made are “very admirable,” but raised concerns because it does not require physicians to document warning the patient. He worried this could lead to lawsuits if a patient did overdose and there was no record.

HB399 was passed and sent for enrolling Thursday. HB400 received a second reading in the Senate Wednesday.


HB435 would provide dental benefits through Medicaid to the homeless and those suffering from drug addiction. The goal would be to reduce homelessness and help maintain abstinence from drug use.

A similar pilot program funded by Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) ran through the University of Utah School of Dentistry had impressive results. Participants in the program were more likely to stay in treatment for drug addiction, be employed after treatment, remain drug abstinent and less likely to remain homeless.

This bill would not add any additional cost to Medicaid as the University of Utah has agreed to match the state 100 percent.

HB435 was passed and sent for enrolling Thursday.

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