GUEST VOICES: Gov's Hesitation Hastens Death Toll

Ramon Castellblanch thumbby Ramon Castellblanch, PhD
Quality Healthcare Concepts, Inc.

UPDATE 9/26:
The Governnor has vetoed SB 2384, which would require that private insurers pay for opioid addiction treatment services. AJ supported SB 2384.

fatal doses of heroin and other opioidsIn his last turn at signing bills, Governor Jerry Brown could take some big steps in saving California lives from the opioid epidemic; but, so far, he hasn’t done so. As he hesitates, the death toll gets higher. His deadline is September 30.

The number of opioid overdose deaths in the United States is still rising. In fact, the rate at which those deaths is going up has actually increased in the past few years. Deaths due to the synthetic opioid fentanyl, 80-100 times stronger than morphine, are driving this soaring death toll. Deaths due to fentanyl are rising in California, too. At this point, the top priority in fighting the opioid epidemic is funding recovery and treatment for opioid use disorder.

The Legislature has put a dozen or so bills on Brown’s desk that are aimed at fighting California’s opioid epidemic. Some could substantially increase funding for recovery and treatment for opioid use disorder while otherrs would not. Guess which bills Brown’s signed so far.

Still sitting on his desk are all the bills that would increase funding for recovery and treatment for opioid use disorder. SB 275, supported by the California Society of Addiction Medicine, would require that substance use disorder (SUD) treatment services for adolescents be provided by competent and adequate staff. SB 823, supported by American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM), would require SUD treatment for adults meet ASAM’s outcome-oriented and results-based standards. SB 992 would provide more state oversight of recovery and treatment facilities. Finally, SB 212 would require the pharmaceutical industry to run a statewide drug and sharps take-back program. This would help get dangerous opioids out of medicine chests and into safe disposal. All of these bills could save many Californians’ lives.

It’s good that the Governor has signed all the opioid legislation that doesn’t increase funding for recovery and treatment for opioid use disorder; but he’s got to back up these bills with serious funding. It’s time for him to show he’s really serious about reducing California’s opioid death rate and saving lives. Next week is his last chance.