Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Christie Could Sign Two More Anti-Addiction Bills

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Christie Could Sign Two More Anti-Addiction Bills

Article excerpt

Chris Christie's final act as governor to cement his image as an anti-addiction crusader could be his signing a pair of bills that would close loopholes in the state's prescription drug monitoring database and standardize the testing and reporting of drug overdose deaths by medical examiners, among several other changes.

Christie's office declined to comment on the measures, but a sponsor of legislation, Sen. Joseph Vitale, D-Middlesex, said he expects them to move through the Legislature and be signed by the governor before his second and final term expires Jan. 16.

"The governor's committed to signing these, so we'll see," Vitale said Thursday ahead of a Senate health committee hearing at which the bills were unanimously approved.

The measures, which nearly a dozen medical associations raised concerns about Thursday, would implement a series of recommendations produced by a substance abuse task force Christie authorized earlier this year at the same time he declared opioid use a public health crisis in New Jersey.

They would build on a sweeping piece of legislation Christie signed in February that mandates insurance coverage for up to six months of substance abuse treatment, imposes the nation's strictest limit on initial opioid drug prescriptions and requires education for patients and doctors about the risks associated with the drugs.

Under current law, many doctors and pharmacists have to the check the state's Prescription Monitoring Program any time they prescribe or dispense an opioid for acute or chronic pain. The database is linked with 12 other states and helps identify patients who may be abusing or diverting the painkillers.

The first bill, S-3604, would end an exception to that requirement for emergency room doctors writing a prescription for five days or less and permit emergency rooms to integrate the prescription monitoring database into their electronic medical record systems.

States that have allowed that type of integration have seen a 25 percent reduction in opioid prescriptions in emergency departments after one year, Dr. Marjory Langer, president of the New Jersey chapter of the American College of Emergency Physicians, wrote in favorable testimony submitted to lawmakers Thursday. …

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