RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Republican lawmakers and North Carolina’s new Democratic attorney general are getting behind a plan to address the state’s opioid abuse problem.
Attorney General Josh Stein, legislators and local law enforcement held a Legislative Building news conference Thursday morning to unveil the proposal, which is called the “STOP Act.” The legislation focuses on improved rules to prescribe and dispense opioid drugs like OxyContin and funds for treating opioid abusers and helping them get clean.
The bill asks for $10 million in each of the next two years for substance abuse treatment and recovery services. The money would go to the Department of Health and Human Services.
The bill would also require supervising physicians to personally consult physician assistants and nurse practitioners who prescribe schedule II-V controlled substances for long-term use. An electronic prescription would also be required for these drugs and there would be a maximum five-day supply for the initial prescription.
The bill doesn’t include any funding for a needle exchange program.
Treatment and policy is necessary because “we can’t just say to people stop using them. We have to give them a way out of their addiction,” Stein said.
Civil penalties will be enforced for improper reporting by dispensers and the bill mandates dispensers and practitioners register and use a controlled substance system.
This is just the beginning of battling the opioid problem in North Carolina, Rep. Craig Horn (R-Union) said.
“It’s not a one and done. This is not a final step. This is actually a first step. We will work together,” he said.
Stein echoed those sentiments.
“People are dying, people are losing control of their lives, they’re losing their children to foster care. It is a crisis that demands policy making solutions and this STOP Act is an important first step,” he said.
Patti Pressley's son, Nicholas, died from a heroin overdose in February 2015. He was 31 years old. Pressley says her son had been battling the addiction for nearly 15 years.
"[Nicholas] went through several stints of treatment," she said, "But, he was never able to get in the day or the next day. There were many times in waiting for a treatment bed he overdosed, but not fatally."
Pressley has been fighting for change since her son died, even taking her message to the White House.
She says the STOP Act is a step in the right direction.
"This is a great step," she said. "And, I am assuming that the authors of the bill know that this is a first step, not the last step that we need to be taking."
The legislature passed a law in 2016 that creates a statewide standing order at all pharmacies for access to a prescription drug that can reverse overdoses of heroin, OxyContin or other opium-based drugs.