California lawmakers advance measures to curb opioid crisis
SACRAMENTO — California lawmakers advanced 10 opioid-related bills Tuesday in an effort to address the drug abuse crisis in the state, including a proposal that would let California share prescription records with other states.
Half of the bills passed by a legislative committee would increase monitoring or make it easier to track opioid prescriptions to help police and doctors spot problematic prescriptions. Others would place limits on doctors prescribing the addictive drugs to children or increase access to addiction treatments.
Tens of thousands of Americans die every year as a result of opioid addiction. In California more than 2,000 people died from opioid overdoses in 2016. Lawmakers say the problem is particularly bad in rural areas.
Assemblyman Evan Low, a Campbell Democrat who led the committee meeting, said the opioid crisis has been “devastating” in the state.
“There has been a misconception that California has not been particularly hit by this opioid crisis, but this is not true,” said Low, who represents a Silicon Valley-area district.
The bills still require approval by the full Assembly and Senate before they advance to Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk.
Low’s AB1751 would allow California’s justice department to share prescription records with other states. It’s aimed at making it easier to spot patients who cross state lines to get more prescriptions for opioid drugs.
Opponents are concerned the bill doesn’t do enough to safeguard patients’ privacy. The bill limits data sharing to states that meet certain security standards, but Samantha Corbin, a lobbyist representing the Electronic Frontier Foundation, said the requirements don’t provide enough protection for patients.
Megan Allred of the California Medical Association, a trade group that represents doctors, raised concerns about many of the bills and echoed the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s worries about privacy.
The proposal passed out of the committee unanimously.
Another bill, AB2741, passed Tuesday by the committee would limit doctors from prescribing more than five days’ worth of opioid drugs to minors unless it is medically necessary. The bill also requires doctors to discuss risks posed by the addictive drugs with children and their caretakers and requires a guardian to sign a consent form.
“Overprescribing of opioid medications has directly contributed to the addiction crisis,” said Autumn Burke, a Los Angeles Democrat who authored the bill.
The California Medical Association opposes the legislation because it doesn’t give doctors enough discretion, Allred said.
Lawmakers also passed a bill to let police purchase overdose treatments without a prescription. Another would require doctors use electronic prescriptions, which can be tracked more easily and are harder to fraudulently change, when authorizing opioid drugs.