Addiction Treatment in Des Moines Needs Expansion, Despite New Bill

Addiction Treatment in Des Moines Needs Expansion, Despite New Bill

While a new bill introduces new methods to prevent drug abuse, Des Moines and other Iowa cities struggle to expand addiction treatment options for persons with opioid use disorders.

The bill, House File 2377, was passed unanimously in the state’s House of Representatives and was sent to Gov. Kim Reynolds last week for her signature. Although the bill did not contain measures regarding addiction treatment expansions, it did focus on prevention measures that other states are already implementing to curb the opioid crisis.

For many supporters of the bill, it represents an opportunity to alleviate potential opioid-related issues in the near future.

It is a step in the right direction for the state of Iowa, said Rep. Shannon Lundgren.

The bill includes a provision requiring doctors to no longer write paper prescriptions and to check regularly with the state’s prescription monitoring program as a way to prevent patients from doctor shopping. According to a report by the Iowa Board of Pharmacy, there was an increase in physicians and pharmacists who registered for the program. During 2017, approximately 48 percent of the prescriptions written by physicians in Iowa were for opioid-based medications, including morphine, hydrocodone, and oxycodone.

Dentists and nurse practitioners will also be affected by these new guidelines.

The bill also would enact a Good Samaritan Law, which would allow people to call 911 in the event of a drug overdose emergency without facing legal repercussions for possession of illegal drugs.

Although the bill received widespread approval, some representatives wished that it included additional measures to help persons with substance use disorders.

Rep. Chuck Isenhart and other officials were in favor of adding provisions allowing for needle exchanges to be established. Opponents were concerned that these services would normalize drug use. However, Isenhart and others argued that they would instead help prevent the spreading of HIV and Hepatitis C. They also said that needle exchanges would allow people to develop relationships with healthcare personnel at these sites and receive additional support or encouragement to seek addiction treatment.

Currently, needle exchange programs are illegal in Iowa. Various nonprofit organizations have assisted persons with substance abuse in Des Moines, Cedar Rapids, and other nearby cities by offering fentanyl strips, blood tests, and other resources. But those who supply clean needles and syringes are technically breaking the law.

Earlier this year, House File 288 attempted to legalize needle exchange programs in Iowa, but it did not pass.  

Numerous medical professionals would have preferred… (Continue Reading)