When was the last time you had two pieces of good news in one day? Well, count yourself lucky because this is one of those days, and in the recovery field, that’s cause for celebration. A few weeks ago, Dr. Nick Techentin, PhD, a therapist who works for Joan at the Malibu Beach Recovery Center's Brentwood House, sent her a link to an L.A. Times article to let her know that her “hard work is starting to catch on.” He was referring to the fact that lawmakers in Washington DC have introduced a bill that should make it harder for people to abuse hydrocodone (for example, Vicodin). The law would place it “in same category as OxyContin, another opiate-based painkiller so potent and addictive that it's sometimes referred to as synthetic heroin,” the article said. This is in accordance with the FDA recommendations from January.
Nick was also referring to Joan’s regular efforts to help those in recovery by bringing awareness to the prescription drug epidemic. You may recall how politically active she has been, or then again you may not be aware. In 2010, Joan brought two MBRC alumni to Sacramento to lobby in favor of a bill sponsored by Senator Mark DeSaulnier to fund CURES, California's online real time prescription drug data base. After the bill failed by a single vote, she invited him visit MBRC to speak with addiction industry professionals about resurrecting the CURES database project. This year after the Los Angeles Times took Attorney General Kamala Harris to task for letting CURES all but die, he reintroduced the bill (with some changes), this time co-sponsored by some political heavyweights like State Senate Speaker Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, State Senators Fran Pavley and Ted Lieu, and Assembly Budget Committee Chairman Bob Blumenfield.
So the news about hydrocodone was very welcome. The law, if it passes, will be called the Safe Prescribing Act of 2013. There’s no reason to believe it won’t pass, since four lawmakers introduced it, and “more than 40 additional members of Congress from both parties signed on as co-sponsors.”
The second piece of good news concerns the bills passed in VT last month. In an article published in a CT paper, one of the lawmakers involved said the bills were a response to the opiate addiction and methamphetamine abuse in the state. First, the legislation gave good Samaritans, or people who call about overdoses, immunity from prosecution. (Police will not have access to the database without a warrant.) Importantly, it required doctors who prescribe narcotics to register with the state’s CURES-like database and to use it. Pharmacists are required to ask for ID of those picking up prescriptions for certain drugs, and hospitals have to abide by standards set for referring people to drug treatment programs when needed.
Joan added: Just as we were about to publish the above report by Pat, yet another piece of good news arrived. In a surprise showing of bipartisan support, the California State Assembly Health Committee voted in favor of Assemblyman Richard Bloom's AB 831, a bill that would require a temporary state task force of experts to develop a comprehensive plan to address the state's overdose crisis, as well as to establish a modest funding source for groups working to reduce overdose deaths. Assemblyman Bloom represents Malibu, which is home to two dozen alcohol and drug treatment centers, as well as West Los Angeles and Beverly Hills, home to at least another six treatment centers. The bill now moves to the Assembly Appropriations Committee.
Photos (above) Senate Speaker Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg. (Right) Assembyman Richard Bloom.