The campaign to curb opioid deaths stretched from Denver to Washington, D.C., this week, as Gov. Jared Polis signed new state laws and U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet introduced get-tough legislation on Capitol Hill.
At the Sobriety House treatment facility in Denver Thursday afternoon, Polis signed:
- Senate Bill 8, to address substance use disorder treatment in the criminal justice system. The bill was sponsored by state Reps. Chris Kennedy, D-Lakewood, and Jonathan Singer, D-Longmont, with Sens. Kevin Priola, R-Henderson, and Brittany Pettersen, D-Lakewood.
- House Bill 1009, to provide support for those recovering from substance use disorders, providing vouchers for housing assistance to some, creating standards for recovery residences and creating the Opioid Crisis Recovery Funds Advisory Committee. The bill was sponsored by Kennedy, Singer, Priola and Pettersen.
- Senate Bill 19-227, a sweeping piece of legislation aimed at getting drug-overdose medication into schools, expanding the state's drug take-back program and getting automated external defibrillator devices into more buildings. The bill was sponsored by Pettersen; Kennedy; Sen. Julie Gonzales, D-Denver; and Rep. Leslie Herod, D-Denver.
- Senate Bill 228, to provide training and other measures for prescribers to address supply of opiates. The bill was sponsored by Singer; Sens. Faith Winter, D-Westminister; Dominick Moreno, D-Commerce City; and Rep. Bri Buentello, D-Pueblo.
- Senate Bill 219, to reauthorize the Colorado Licensing Of Controlled Substances Act with a new requirement to separate the administration of the act from duties relating to treatment facilities that receive public funds. Changes also call for an online central registry for licensed opioid treatment programs to submit information to the state Department of Human Services. The bill was sponsored by Pettersen and Rep. Serena Gonzales-Gutierrez, D-Denver.
“This law is focused on people who are going through substance use recovery and are at the end of that spectrum,” Kennedy said in a statement. “Through this bill, we are trying to reintegrate these folks back into the community and break down the barriers they face, like access to housing.”
Singer stated: “The majority of people with a substance use disorder are currently in recovery today. Supporting recovery is the right thing to do, costing the state far less in the long run. This will play a huge role in ending the opioid crisis.”
On May 16 the governor signed Senate Bill 13, which makes any condition for which an opiate has been prescribed eligible for medical marijuana.
Meanwhile in Washington this week, Bennet introduced bipartisan legislation to hold opioid makers more directly accountable for the addiction crisis caused by their products.
Besides extracting more money from drug makers, the Opioid Crisis Accountability Act would hold top company officials criminally liable for violations, while toughening laws on illegal marketing and distribution.
“Communities across the country are being ripped apart by the opioid epidemic," Bennet said in a statement.
"Multi-billion-dollar pharmaceutical companies and their executives reaped large profits for years while their questionable marketing and distribution practices precipitated a devastating public health crisis.
“It is far past time for Congress to ensure opioid manufacturers, distributors and executives fund our response to the crisis they created. Our bill will support programs that combat the opioid crisis and ensure we hold companies and their executives accountable for any future misconduct.”
The bill is cosponsored by U.S. Sens. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.; Kamala Harris, D-Calif.; and Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn.; with Reps. Ro Khanna, D-Calif.; and Tulsi Gabbard, D-HI.
Like Bennet, Sanders, Harris and Gabbard are declared candidates for president next year.