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Gov. Parson signs legislation to aid fight against opioid addiction, support family caregivers

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – A bill signed into law by Gov. Mike Parson seeks to reinforce efforts to curb opioid abuse in Missouri, set up Missouri’s drug take-back program, and give support to family caregivers.

SB 718 is an omnibus health care bill, with several provisions included in the legislation, but the biggest takeaways are the establishment of a statewide drug take-back program, the Caregiver, Advise, Record, and Enable (CARE) Act, and the  “Improved Access to Treatment for Opioid Addictions” Program.

Under the new law, the Department of Health and Senior Services is required to develop an education and awareness program about drug disposal by August 28, 2019.

The CARE Act, legislation supported by the AARP, offers unpaid family caregivers needed support by requiring hospitals to record the name of the caregiver when their loved one is admitted, notifying the caregiver when their loved one is to be moved or discharged, and instructing the caregiver on the medical tasks they will need to perform at home.

Across Missouri, family caregivers spend over 700 million hours each year caring for loved ones – a contribution totaling an estimated $8.5 billion in unpaid care. They carry out tasks like managing finances, providing transportation, helping with bathing and dressing, cooking meals and more. Some family caregivers even take on complicated medical and nursing tasks like cleaning wounds, giving injections, and managing medications. Once only in the domain of doctors and nurses, these tasks are performed by family caregivers at home, most with little to no training.

“Family caregivers take on tasks that are exhausting, overwhelming, and stressful.” said Craig Eichelman, State Director of AARP Missouri, which serves more than 800,000 members age 50 and older across the state. “And the CARE Act is a no-cost, commonsense bill to make these big responsibilities a little bit easier.”

An October 2017 survey found that across party lines, Missouri registered voters age 45-plus overwhelmingly support the three components of the bill, with 96% indicating their support for requiring hospitals to demonstrates medical tasks to caregivers; 93% support requiring hospitals to keep caregivers informed of major decisions; and 83% support requiring hospitals and care facilities to record caregiver information upon admission.

Missouri is now the 40th state to sign the CARE Act into law.

The new law also includes the “Improved Access to Treatment for Opioid Addictions Program,” (IATOA), which will disseminate information and best practices regarding opioid addiction.

Assistant physicians who participate in the IATOA program shall complete the requirements to prescribe buprenorphine within 30 days of joining the program.

An assistant physician in the IATOA program may serve several functions. When an overdose survivor comes to an emergency room, an assistant physician shall provide treatment options and support to the survivor, when reasonably practicable.

“These important pieces of legislation contain provisions of my HB 2105 and HB 2127, which will increase the physician workforce in our state and will facilitate a very innovative approach to saving lives of those with addiction to opioids. A major news article last year had as its title ‘Turns out there is good treatment for heroin addiction — just good luck getting it in the state of Missouri.’ There are more than 2,500 people on a waiting list to get this type of treatment in our state. The treatment, Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT), uses drugs like buprenorphine to help people return to productive lives. Buprenorphine works by preventing the cravings while not creating a ‘high’,” Rep. Keith Frederick, R-Rolla, said in a statement. 

“States all over our nation are struggling to find the medical personnel to provide this evidence-based treatment that has shown conclusively to save lives. In Missouri, however, we have a ‘Workforce Multiplier’ since in 2014 we created, through legislation I introduced, a new category of physicians, called Assistant Physicians. These are doctors who graduate from med school in good standing and pass their board exams but aren’t able to ‘match’ to a residency since there aren’t enough residencies to go around.

“We established this Assistant Physician program to allow these doctors to practice under the supervision of a licensed doctor in shortage areas in our state. SB 718 builds on this innovation to increase access to treatment for opioid addiction. SB 718 will facilitate the expanded access to life-saving treatment through the use of Assistant Physicians in combination with other resources Missouri has put in place such as telemedicine, the ability to share information through  ECHO (Expanded Community Health Outreach), and our Recovery Coach training program. Through commitment and innovation Missouri is leading the way to provide treatment to those who need it, and give them another chance at a productive life.”