Colorado Gov. Polis signs opioid bills

Colorado Gov. Polis signs opioid bills

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis signed three bills Monday aimed at reducing opioid harm while improving substance use disorder treatment.

During the virtual bill signing, Polis signed a bill, SB20-007, sponsored by Reps. Bri Buentello (D-District 47) and Jim Wilson (R-District 60) that would require insurance carriers to provide coverage for substance use disorder treatment in accordance with evidence-based guidelines from the American Society of Addiction Medicine. The bill also prohibits courts, probation, or community corrections from prohibiting medication-assisted treatment (MAT) as a condition of participation or placement.

Additionally, the bill authorizes the Insurance Commissioner to make sure that insurance carriers’ formularies include medication for MAT and opioid overdose medications like naloxone.

“The opioid crisis was already a serious public health issue, and the pandemic has only made matters worse for our communities,” Buentello said. “This bill, and the larger opioid epidemic package we passed this year, will help get Coloradans who are working to overcome substance use disorders the treatment they need to breakthrough. I’m proud of the work we did this year for Southern Colorado and other areas of our state that have been hit hard by this crisis.”

The second bill Polis signed, HB20-1065, was sponsored by Reps. Chris Kennedy (D-District 23) and Leslie Herod (D-District 8) seeks to lower the rate of opioid overdoses by protecting people who act in good faith, but administer opiate antagonists, like naloxone, that has expired. Additionally, the bill would require insurance plans to reimburse hospitals that provide opiate antagonists to patients when they leave the hospital. Lastly, the bill would remove a regulatory barrier to opening syringe exchange programs, and allow pharmacists to sell clean syringes to prevent the spread of communicable diseases.

Lastly, Polis signed another bill by Kennedy and Herod, HB20-1017, which would encourage corrections facilities, both public and private, and facilities run by the Department of Human Services to make one opioid antagonist per person with opioid use disorder available throughout their incarceration or commitment. Additionally, it requires that correctional facilities must provide inmates with opioid use disorder with post-release resources to help prepare them for reintegration into their communities. The bill also allows anyone to turn in any controlled substances to a safe station without the threat of arrest or prosecution.

“Substance use disorder has ravaged and devastated our communities, and we have no time to waste in fighting back,” Herod said. “These bills will keep more Coloradans alive by focusing on harm reduction and access to treatment, including for incarcerated Coloradans. Currently, Colorado’s largest treatment facilities are our jails and prisons– this cannot stand. Our state can’t incarcerate addiction away. Instead, we must focus on treatment and providing needed support. These bills take important steps forward and will no doubt, save lives, but a great deal of work remains to be done.”