By Meg Wingerter
The Oklahoma attorney general’s commission fighting the opioid crisis proposed at a meeting Tuesday a mix of changes to law enforcement, new rules for prescribers and increased data collection.
The commission, which has met multiple times this year under the direction of Attorney General Mike Hunter, laid out five initial recommendations for lawmakers when they return for regular session in February.
They proposed lawmakers create penalties for trafficking fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that is more powerful than heroin; requiring doctors to use electronic prescriptions, which are more difficult to duplicate or forge; creating a “Good Samaritan” law that would prevent prosecution for people who call for help during an overdose; setting up a database to track overdoses; and urging changes to Drug Enforcement Agency rules that limit the number of patients a doctor can treat with medications to prevent withdrawal from opioids.
Terri White, commissioner of the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, said about 9,000 people in Oklahoma used medication-assisted treatment last year, and as many as 14,000 could do so in the current fiscal year. People who receive that type of treatment are less likely to experience an overdose or commit crimes and more likely to keep a job, she said.
Access to treatment in rural areas is a problem, she said, as is a federal law limiting how many patients a doctor can treat with methadone or buprenorphine. Both drugs prevent patients from experiencing the unpleasant symptoms of withdrawal, but don’t cause euphoria.