Legislation passed today by the House would take multiple steps to address society’s growing opioid crisis.

“The opioid epidemic is taking a toll on communities around our state, at tremendous financial cost,” said Sen. Annette Cleveland (D-Vancouver), the sponsor of Senate Bill 5380. “The even greater toll, however, is to people and families. The opioid crisis claimed more than 700 lives in Washington last year and is now the leading cause of accidental deaths in almost every part of our state.”

Cleveland, who chairs the Senate Health Care Committee, noted that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates the total economic burden of prescription opioid misuse alone in the United States at $78.5 billion a year, including the cost of healthcare, lost productivity, addiction treatment, and criminal justice involvement. 

“Our communities are reeling from opioid misuse and abuse in too many ways to address with a single solution,” Cleveland said. “This legislation takes action on everything from length of prescriptions and prescription monitoring, to collaboration by multiple state agencies to develop a comprehensive, statewide approach to treating and preventing opioid use disorder.  The bill addresses prevention, education, treatment and swift responses to overdoes.”

Passed unanimously, SB 5380 would modify numerous protocols for using medications to treat opioid use disorder. It would:

  • Permit pharmacists to partially fill certain prescriptions upon patient request.
    • Require prescribers to discuss the risks of opioids with certain patients and provide the patient with the option to refuse an opioid prescription.
    • Establish new requirements for how electronic health records integrate with the state’s prescription monitoring program and how the data can be used.
    • Require the Health Care Authority and the Department of Health to partner and work with other state agencies on initiatives that promote a statewide approach in addressing opioid use disorder.
    • Permit the Secretary of Health to issue a standing order for opioid reversal medication and require pharmacists to provide written instructions for dispensing reversal medication for opioid overdoses.
    • Allow hospital emergency departments to dispense opioid overdose reversal medication when a patient is at risk of opioid overdose.

“The opioid crisis demands action, and it demands comprehensive action,” Cleveland said. “This legislation takes a broad approach, providing and directing our key health agencies to make opioid concerns a statewide priority. I know of no other crisis negatively impacting the health of so many in our state that is as dire, or as devastating as the opioid epidemic.  We must swiftly pass this bill to provide help, support and hope to all of those currently suffering. ”

Having been amended in the House, the bill now must go back to the Senate for reconsideration.