Last week, the Washington State House of Representatives passed omnibus opioid legislation, which includes language from Rep. Gina McCabe’s bill aimed at preventing opioid abuse.
In January, McCabe proposed House Bill 2447 — otherwise known as Jeremy’s Law — to require health care practitioners to discuss dependency and overdose risks, as well as provide pain management alternatives to opioids when prescribing them for the first time during the course of a patient’s treatment. The Washington State Department of Health would also be required to post a brief warning statement on their website.
House Bill 2447’s provisions were rolled into House Bill 2489, governor-request legislation that would encourage the use of medication-assisted treatment and other evidence-based treatments, and seeks to eliminate barriers to access to medications and services that may treat opioid use disorder. It will also provide resources for local jurisdictions and first responders so they may appropriately intervene and assist those struggling with addiction.
“Unanimously passing this legislation means the state of Washington is making a commitment to end this public health crisis,” said McCabe, R-Goldendale. “In 2016, nearly 700 Washingtonians died from opioid abuse, and more than 1,400 people were hospitalized due to overdoses or opioid-related complications. At the national level, an average of 115 Americans die every day from an opioid overdose. I can’t help but think if patients fully understood the risks before being prescribed an opioid, we would see a decline in the number of deaths and the number of families destroyed, from this tragic epidemic. I don’t want another family to go through what Jeremy and his family endured. This bill is a crucial step in getting us to that point.”
Jeremy’s Law is named for Jeremy Wolfe, a former high-school state wrestling champion who became addicted to prescription opioids, and eventually heroin, after suffering a knee injury.
During public testimony on Jeremy’s Law, Darlene Williamson, Wolfe’s mother, said she would have explored alternative pain management medications had she understood the full risks taking opioids posed.
“Had I known when he was young that he would have done what he did, I would have never filled a prescription for him,” she said.
House Bill 2489 now advances to the Senate for further consideration.