Legislators Announce Legislation to Tackle the Opioid & Substance Abuse Epidemic
SACRAMENTO – A bipartisan coalition of lawmakers have reconvened the California Legislative Working Group on Substance Abuse Treatment. This group was started in 2019 with the goal of delivering legislative and policy reforms to establish stronger patient protections and increase access to safe, quality care for those seeking substance abuse treatment. Assemblywoman Cottie Petrie-Norris and Senator Patricia Bates lead the working group, along with Assemblymembers Tasha Boerner-Horvath, David Chiu, Laurie Davies, Marie Waldron; and Senators Dave Min, Henry Stern and Tom Umberg.
According to the California Department of Public Health, across California, opioid-related overdoses claimed 3,244 lives in 2019. And in the United States, opioid overdoses are now a top five cause of death. As the opioid and substance abuse epidemic has worsened during the COVID-19 Pandemic, legislators are working to improve standards for patients in recovery, and to strengthen funding mechanisms for substance abuse treatment throughout the state.
“Since the start of the Covid-19 Pandemic, we have seen a tragic rise in substance abuse and addiction,” said Assemblywoman Cottie Petrie-Norris (D-Laguna Beach). “As the number of Californians seeking help skyrockets, it is more important than ever to establish standards for substance abuse treatment programs and providers to end exploitation in the recovery industry and ensure that taxpayer dollars are directed to proven programs. With lives on the line, we do not have the luxury of time.”
Assemblywoman Petrie-Norris has introduced AB 77 - Jarrod’s Law - which would raise standards and protect patients in substance abuse treatment facilities. The bill will create a licensure program for substance abuse treatment programs under DHCS and is based on national best practices to establish a standard of care. She has also introduced AB 1158 which will ensure that licensed drug abuse recovery and treatment facilities and recovery residences that contract with the government maintain minimum insurance coverage levels and higher standards to protect patients from abuse or injury.
“As a former social worker who has worked with families harmed by substance abuse, I support a holistic approach that protects individuals seeking treatment,” said Senator Patricia Bates (R-Laguna Niguel). “I authored ‘Brandon’s Law’ (Senate Bill 434) to help save lives and I look forward to continuing my involvement with this bipartisan working group to help advance my colleagues' proposals.”
Senate Bill 434 authored by Senator Patricia Bates will prohibit an operator of a licensed residential treatment facility, a certified alcohol or other drug program, or licensed psychiatric or mental health facilities from providing any form of false advertising or marketing services. Additionally, Senator Bates has authored SB 541 which will require a residential treatment facility or certified alcohol or drug program that is licensed or certified by the state to disclose its license number and expiration date in all marketing materials and to any person who inquires about the license.
“We need to protect Californians seeking treatment for substance use disorders from unscrupulous service providers by enshrining in law a series of common-sense rights and by prohibiting deceptive marketing practices,” said Senator Tom Umberg (D-Orange County). “This starts with creating a ‘Bill of Rights’ that entitles clients of treatment programs to appropriate, evidence-based treatment provided by qualified caregivers in a safe and ethical setting.”
In order to protect Californians seeking treatment for substance use disorders from unscrupulous service providers, Senator Umberg has introduced SB 349, which will create a ‘Bill of Rights’ that entitles clients of treatment programs to appropriate, evidence-based treatment provided by qualified caregivers in a safe and ethical setting. In partnership with the Steinberg Institute and Orange County, Senator Umberg has also introduced SB 106, which frees up and incentivizes the use of available Mental Health Services funds by pre-approving full-service partnerships that provide “whatever it takes” care—the gold standard for mental health treatment.
“With the ongoing surge in opioid and Fentanyl deaths. It’s imperative that we work in unity on life-saving policies, more now than ever,” said Assemblymember Laurie Davies (R-Laguna Niguel).
Assemblymember Davies has introduced AB 381 which would require a licensee to maintain at least 2 unexpired doses of naloxone on the premises at all times and have at least one staff member on the premises who knows the specific location of the naloxone and who has been trained to administer it.
"Over the course of the pandemic, we have seen a heartbreaking increase in overdoses and substance use," said Assemblymember David Chiu (D-San Francisco). "Substance use disorder is a medical diagnosis that requires treatment, and there could not be a more urgent time to expand access to treatment. I am proud to join this effort to ensure Californians can get the help they need."
Assembly Bill 666, authored by Assemblymember David Chiu, aims to address the shortage and lack of diversity within the State’s behavioral health workforce who treat substance abuse disorders by providing tuition assistance, allocating fee waivers for tests and certification expenses, providing increased language access to preparatory materials and establishing state evaluation of the current state of the substance use disorder workforce.
“I’m proud to be a part of this bi-partisan working group dedicated to expanding access to critical treatments, supporting vulnerable communities and bringing recognition to the substance use crisis,” said Assemblymember Marie Waldron (R-Escondido). “We will work to craft policies that ensure Californians have the resources to successfully overcome addictions in safe and secure environments.”
Assembly Bill 1011 has been introduced by Assemblymember Marie Waldron which would prevent a health plan or insurer from imposing any prior authorization requirements or any step therapy requirements before authorizing coverage for FDA-approved substance use disorder treatments, and will also place those FDA-approved medications for treatment of substance use disorders on the lowest cost-sharing tier. She has also authored AB 653 which would create the Medication-Assisted Treatment Grant Program to award grants to counties to be used for various purposes related to the treatment of substance abuse disorders.
These bills are expected to be heard in Assembly policy committees this Spring.
"I’m honored to join the Bipartisan Working Group on Substance Abuse Treatment, led by Assemblywoman Cottie Petrie-Norris and Senator Patricia Bates," Senator Dave Min (D-Irvine) said. "Substance abuse remains one of the most stigmatized components of mental health, and during this pandemic, we’ve sadly lost too many lives to fatal overdoses. I look forward to working with my colleagues to ensure stronger patient protections and increase access to safe, quality care."
“Like so many issues we work on, this is one that is just incredibly heart-wrenching and has no easy solution,” said Henry Stern (D-Los Angeles). “People struggling with substance abuse should not be ignored or pushed aside. This issue touches so many lives, not just those who are suffering from abuse problems, but also their friends and family members who are working to help them. They all need our assistance.”
“The far-reaching effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have taken a toll on people’s mental and emotional health, including the alarming increases in drug use as a way to cope” said Assemblymember Tasha Boerner Horvath (D-Encinitas). “We also know that services to help those suffering from addiction were lacking even before the pandemic. The time is now to renew our focus on substance abuse in our state.”