State lawmakers have set out this session to create well-meaning bills to curb Kentucky’s growing crisis with heroin and fentanyl abuse and overdose. The problem with most of them is that they discriminate and may harm those with chronic pain from injury, disease or cancer, which, under federal law, may qualify as a disability.
How and when providers can prescribe a controlled substance to treat pain is already extremely limited. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention directions for prescribing opioids were meant as guidelines, mainly for use by primary-care practitioners. However, current proposals like House Bill 333 cite the CDC guidelines as justiﬁcation for putting a three-day limit after injury or for ongoing prescription.
Several other bills in the legislature also need to be stopped. If these bills become law, there will be more people like Doug Hale, of Vermont, who committed suicide in May 2016 because he was under-treated for his pain and then was completely weaned off. Patients with disabilities are just as important as those with substance abuse disorders.
It’s time for the public to demand better bills that help substance abusers but do not unintentionally harm those needing legal medication to do simple functions, such as shower and cook. We must ﬁnd a way to make this heroin and fentanyl overdose crisis better without causing casualties in the process.
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United Kentucky Pain Care Action Network