Update on Virginia’s Opiate Crisis


February 23, 2017

Last week, the Board of Medicine adopted emergency regulations on best prescribing for opiates, which you can read more about here. This morning, the Governor began signing into law the legislation from the opiate intervention package. This is not a partisan issue, and addiction does not discriminate. I’m proud to be one of the many legislators from all over the state who are working to address this crisis. 

The regulations will now be communicated to prescribers throughout the Commonwealth, and it is our hope that these guidelines will help to shape practice and decrease opiate prescribing. A prescriber can be held accountable if prescribing outside of those parameters. The Board of Medicine can have them sanctioned, or have their license revoked or restricted.

Decreasing the deaths and suffering from opiate addiction will require a broad array of interventions. One resolution I put forth this year is SJ 282, which establishes the first week of July as “Substance Exposed Infant Awareness Week.” Over the past year, the number of children exposed to drugs in utero has sharply increased by 21%. These babies are the most innocent and tragic victims of the opioid epidemic. I hope by increasing awareness we are able to reduce incidence, but also that we may improve access to detoxification services and ongoing support now covered by Medicaid under the Addiction and Recovery Treatment Services (ARTS) waiver  with special coverage for pregnant women.

I have also introduced a budget amendment to provide the seed money for a Perinatal Quality Collaborative (PQC). Currently, 41 other states have these clinical collaboratives which consist of a panel of clinicians – including perinatologists, neonatologists, hospitals, social workers, and health departments – all working together to define and implement best clinical practices for a health issue statewide. States such as Ohio have significantly improved identification and outcomes for these substance dependent neonate. The added benefit to a PQC is that it decreases length of hospital stay, and improves long-term outcomes. Again, we see that investment in diagnosis and early intervention to a disease process helps improve outcomes and reduce cost.

Doctors, hospitals, the Health Department and other interests groups are starting the first perinatal quality initiative here in Virginia. I am thrilled to say it doesn’t need to be legislated. Beyond the initial startup dollars from the state, this collaborative will be able to sustain itself with grants and private funding. This funding is included in the proposed Senate Budget

I believe many issues can and should be resolved outside of the legislature by the subject matter experts who know best how to deal with the topics at hand. For more information about the legislation I carried this year to address the Opiate Crisis and more general information, see my earlier Doctor’s Note here