Delawareans denied treatment for substance abuse, and families of Delawareans who have died from drug overdoses joined with legislators and elected and appointed officials to unveil a number of steps in the fight against the state’s substance abuse crisis.
The three pieces of legislation to expand treatment for substance abuse and better target the over-prescription of opioid drugs will be championed in the legislature by Sens. Margaret Rose Henry, D-Wilmington South; Stephanie Hansen, D-Middletown; David Lawson, R-Marydel; and Anthony Delcollo, R-Elsmere; and by Reps. Helene Keeley, D-Wilmington South; Michael Mulrooney, D-Wilmington Manor; Timothy Dukes, R-Laurel; and Ruth Briggs King, R-Georgetown. Attorney General Matt Denn brought the bills to the legislators.
A March 22 event at Legislative Hall in Dover included stories told by those with addiction and survived and those who had lost the fight.
The first bill would not permit pre-authorization and referral requirements imposed by private insurers to get initial treatment for substance abuse. The only “utilization review” permitted by insurers of the first 14 days of treatment would be to ensure that treatment providers were complying with nationally recognized guidelines for substance abuse treatment. That review would occur after the 14 days had expired, and the insurance commissioner will oversee the reviews. It is modeled on a law that was passed in New York in 2016 and which both regulators and substance abuse treatment providers say has been a success.
A second bill addresses another obstacle faced by people addicted to controlled substances, the denial of substance abuse treatment on “medical necessity” grounds — either by being denied outright, sent to an inadequate type of treatment or cut off from treatment after an inadequate period of time. It allows the Department of Justice to use consumer protection funds to secure expert medical advice for persons seeking treatment for substance abuse who are being denied coverage on medical necessity grounds by private insurers or Medicaid administrators and, if necessary, to provide legal assistance in navigating the claim denial appeals process.
The third piece of legislation establishes a new committee to help oversee the prescription drug database. Using a formula developed with the committee, the staff that oversees the database will provide the committee with data regarding doctors with extraordinary opiate prescription patterns, and the committee will review that data with staff to determine if referrals to licensing authorities or law enforcement authorities are necessary. The committee will have the authority to make direct referrals to licensing authorities, and any referrals to law enforcement will be made by professional staff.
A video of the event announcing the bills can be found at facebook.com/DE.AttorneyGeneral.