West Virginia and Florida are the latest states to seek a legislative solution to the nation’s ongoing crisis of opioid misuse, abuse, and related deaths. In West Virginia, the state senate just voted unanimously to limit new painkiller prescriptions for most patients to a 7-day supply, though the number would be lower for urgent care centers and emergency rooms (4 days) and for dentists and ophthalmologists (3 days). Florida is looking at a bill that would impose a 3-day limit, with exceptions for postsurgery, major trauma, or hospice patients. Haggling over that bill has been contentious, as some Florida legislators view 3 days as an “arbitrary” number that is too restrictive; they propose a 7-day limit for most patients, as just approved in West Virginia. The current version made it out of committee and is expected to be voted on in the near future—which would be a step forward in itself, as the bill has been delayed twice already. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement reported a 35% percent increase in opioid-related deaths from 2015 to 2016. West Virginia had a record 887 fatal overdoses in 2016 (52 per 100,000 residents—the highest rate in the U.S.) Preliminary data for 2017 show 812 overdose deaths, but that total is expected to rise. One other consequence of opioid addiction not often discussed, but noted by West Virginia: State officials say child placements in foster care now exceed 6,000, up 50% in the past several years because of parents’ addictions.
More States Try to Address Opioid Crisis Legislatively