January 29, 2016

Vermont Legislature Searches for Solutions to Combat Opioid Abuse and Addiction

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The senate committee on health and welfare met recently to discuss S. 201, an act relating to limitations on prescriptions for opioids and S. 243, an act relating to combating opioid abuse in Vermont. With testimonies from four doctors and one retired Vermont state police officer, the council sought out suggestions for improvements on the proposed bills in order to address the state’s ongoing fight against the opioid epidemic.

Dr. Patti Fisher, Medical Director for Case Management & Medical Staff Affairs at the University of Vermont Medical Center, suggested more consistent check-ins with patients on potentially addictive prescriptions. She advised that patients must have a phone number that their doctor can reach them at, pill counts and urine screenings at least quarterly, and stricter protocols and contracts, among other things.

Another issue brought up was that patients often feel dependent on their prescriptions and therefore do not want to get off of them even if enough time may have passed to where they should be feeling better or able to reduce their dosage. The recommendation was made to have a conversation with doctors on when and how they can approach this difficult subject with their patients; this may fall under stricter contracts.

The council later proceeded to ask, “What recommendations do you have for improving these bills, what’s missing?” to which Dr. Fisher responded that there should be some message to the public and youth regarding the dangers of opioids. She compared this issue to that of “big tobacco” campaigns where great measures for prevention have been and continue to be used today. Educating the public on the dangers using opioids and the importance of properly disposing of old prescriptions will be necessary in order to fight this addiction problem in Vermont.

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