House Passes 3 Bills on Dems’ Opioid Epidemic Agenda

(April 19) – Three major components of the House Democrats’ effort to combat the epidemic of opioid addiction in Colorado won voice-vote approval in the House tonight.

HB18-1136 is Rep. Brittany Pettersen’s bill for a tenfold increase in residential and inpatient substance abuse treatment through Medicaid coverage, mostly by drawing down federal funds. Currently, Medicaid only covers three days of detox — nowhere near enough time to significantly reduce the risk of readdiction — and does not cover inpatient treatment.

The opioid epidemic claimed more American lives last year than the entire Vietnam War and is the leading cause of death for Americans under the age of 50. But Rep. Pettersen said the problem became real to her when her mother finally asked for help after struggling with a substance use disorder for 30 years.

“This bill begins to close a significant gap I saw firsthand when my mom was begging for help and there was nowhere for her to go,” Rep. Pettersen, D-Lakewood, said tonight.

“We are not saving state dollars by denying coverage,” she added. “We are spending more in revolving-door emergency room visits, ICU care and the criminal justice system. And we are letting people die.”

Also passing tonight was HB18-1007, by Reps. Chris Kennedy, D-Lakewood, and Jonathan Singer, D-Longmont, to require insurance companies and Medicaid to provide faster approval of medication-assisted treatment so patients with substance use disorders don’t go back to opioids while waiting for approval to begin their treatment.

The House also passed HB18-1003, Rep. Pettersen’s bill to create a committee to study the substance use disorder problem in Colorado, increase training for providers on best practices for prescribing opioids and prevention and reduction programs for at-risk youth in highly affected areas.

After recorded votes all three bills will be sent to the state Senate.


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