Southwest Virginia legislator targets opioid crisis
As a health care professional, state Del. Todd Pillion of Abingdon has a special perspective on the opioid epidemic that has ravaged the localities he represents in Virginia’s General Assembly.
Pillion, a pediatric dentist, has successfully sponsored key legislation to address the crisis. He represents the 4th House District, which includes Dickenson County and parts of Wise, Russell and Washington counties.
“Virginia has become a leader in passing not only legislation but regulations through the Board of Medicine and Dentistry,” Pillion said. “There’s no magic bullet – this epidemic isn’t going to go away no matter what we do. But we have seen improvements.”
During this year’s regular legislative session, the General Assembly passed three opioid-related bills introduced by Pillion, a Republican who was elected in 2014. Gov. Ralph Northam has signed the measures into law:
· HB 1556 will add the opiate overdose reversal drug naloxone and other Schedule 5 drugs for which a prescription is required to Virginia’s Prescription Monitoring Program. This will allow the Virginia Department of Health to monitor whether prescribers and dispensers are following state regulations and to deter the illegitimate use of prescription drugs. By adding naloxone to the list, officials can track if it is being co-prescribed with opiates in order to prevent fatal overdoses.
· HB 1157 will require the Department of Health to develop and implement a plan of action for substance-exposed infants in Virginia. The plan must support a “trauma-informed approach” to identifying and treating substance-exposed infants and their caregivers, explore how to improve screening of substance-using pregnant women, and use multidisciplinary approaches to intervention and service delivery during the prenatal period and following birth.
· HB 1173. Under current law, physicians who prescribe opioids are not required to request information from Virginia’s Prescription Monitoring Program as long as the prescription does not exceed 14 days and is treatment for a surgical or invasive procedure. HB 1173 eliminates the exception for prescriptions related to surgical and invasive procedures to bypass the PMP.
The three new laws will take effect July 1.