Gov. McAuliffe signs bill written by southwest Virginia lawmaker targeting opioid abuse

SOUTHWEST, VA (WJHL)- On Thursday, Governor Terry McAuliffe signed a bill written by southwest Virginia lawmakers that specifically deal with the epidemic of prescription drug abuse in our region.

“We have nine times the national average of prescriptions for opioid drugs,” Wise County Commonwealth Attorney Chuck Slemp said. “Almost every single thing that we see, every crime that we see, has some kind of tie either directly or indirectly to substance abuse, and opioids is the most heavily abused drug in our region.”

Slemp testified in the state capital about the need for the new laws. Six passed unanimously in the Va. General Assembly. They are sponsored by Del. Todd Pillion (R- District 4) and Senator Ben Chafin (R- District 48). The other five bills have been enrolled and are in the process of being communicated to the Governor.

“We’ve spoken with commonwealth attorneys, judges, addicts, we’ve been in good suboxone clinics, bad suboxone clinics, we talked to addiction counselors, and we’ve really come up with a legislative packet that attacks this issue from all different angles,” Pillion said.

Pillion said the bills will create guidelines for prescribing opioids, limit prescriptions, and set more regulations on opioids.

“We don’t want to punish the abuser the person who is an addict but we want to try to prevent it by limiting the supply of drugs by making sure that our law enforcement has the tools necessary to prevent the crimes from happening and also have counseling for those who are getting these drugs,” Slemp said.

“For far too long we have pointed the finger at the addict so this legislative packet starts to look at where this supply chain started so we start looking at the physicians and rolling back some of their prescriptive abilities,” Pillion said.

The bill signed Thursday, HB2165, requires a prescription for any controlled substance containing an opiate to be issued as an electronic prescription beginning July 1, 2020.

“Electronic prescriptions are a unique tool that will allow the doctor to communicate directly to a pharmacy through the internet rather than writing out out a slip of paper that could be is easily tampered with and those regulations will go in place and in effect immediately,” Slemp said.

Slemp said the bills will also educate medical providers on substance abuse and study ways to reduce the number of drug-exposed babies.

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