Ohio Governor John Kasich Signs New Opioid Bill Into Law

By Britni de la Cretaz 01/09/17

The new bill will expand naloxone access alongside several other life-saving provisions. 

Gov. John Kasich

Ohio Gov. John Kasich has signed new legislation into law last Wednesday in an attempt to combat the addiction epidemic that's ravaged some areas of the state. Since 2003, the rate of overdose death has nearly quadrupled in Ohio, giving the state one of the highest opioid-related overdose rates in the country. Lawmakers are exploring strategies to address the issue. 

Dayton Daily News outlines several of the new bill's provisions, including eliminating a rule that prevents new methadone clinics from opening; requiring pharmacy technicians in the state to register with the Ohio Board of Pharmacy; and allowing homeless shelters, halfway houses, schools, and drug treatment centers to administer naloxone (as well as allocating $500,000 of the state budget for first responders to buy and carry naloxone).

In addition, the bill will limit opioid prescription to 90-day supplies and prevent scripts more than 30-days-old from being filled; and will give oversight to the pharmacy board when doctors, dentists, veterinarians, and others give controlled substances to patients.

Prior to the signing of this bill, some state residents had to travel hours to access methadone treatment, which this new law hopes to rectify. The bill passed the legislature last month and was quickly signed by Gov. Kasich.

Early last month, another drug-related bill that hopes to reduce opioid-related overdose deaths passed the Ohio Senate. That bill targeted street drugs that are laced with fentanyl, as the synthetic opioid has been known to increase risk of overdose. In fact, last year's spike in overdose deaths in Ohio is attributed to the influx of fentanyl in the drug market.

Under that bill, “providing someone with five milligrams or more of fentanyl or a gram or more of any substance containing fentanyl would constitute dealing in bulk under Ohio drug laws,” according to a local NBC affiliate. It will be considered in the House next.

Over the summer, there was a rash of overdoses in Ohio due to a batch of heroin mixed with fentanyl. In one weekend in July, there were 11 overdoses (two fatal) in Columbus. After the incident—one of several last summer and fall—officials emphasized the importance of drug users stocking up on Narcan. In Ohio, Narcan is available without a prescription in pharmacies and most health insurance plans, including Medicaid, cover it.

Now, with this new legislation, more people than ever will have access to Narcan in order to prevent more overdose deaths including first responders, social service providers, and schools. According to the Dayton Daily News, the state is also promoting a "Start Talking" campaign for Ohio families with kids and plans to deploy addiction specialists in state prisons.

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Britni de la Cretaz is a freelance writer, baseball enthusiast, and recovered alcoholic living in Boston. Follow her on Twitter at @britnidlc.