Governor Carney Signs Package of Legislation to Combat Addiction Crisis

New laws expand access to substance abuse treatment, remove insurance barriers, and strengthen oversight of prescriptions

WILMINGTON, Del. – Governor John Carney on Tuesday signed into law Senate Bill 41, House Bill 91, and House Bill 100, a bipartisan package of legislation that will expand access to substance abuse treatment, strengthen oversight of opioid prescriptions, and combat Delaware’s addiction crisis.

Governor Carney signed the legislation during a ceremony that included remarks from Attorney General Matt Denn, members of the General Assembly, and Delaware advocates for improved access to substance abuse treatment – including families who have lost loved ones to Delaware’s opioid epidemic.

May 30 Bill Signings

“Far too many Delawareans, and Delaware families, have been affected by this crisis,” said Governor Carney. “These new laws represent a significant step forward in our efforts to combat Delaware’s addiction epidemic. To the Delaware families who have lost loved ones to addiction, and who are now fighting to prevent others from experiencing the same fate, your work is nothing short of inspiring. To the Delawareans who are using your own experience with substance abuse to help others, know that you are making a difference. We will continue to follow your lead. Thank you to Attorney General Denn and members of the General Assembly for your continued urgency on this issue.”

“The credit for these bills should go to the Delawareans who have overcome substance abuse, and the families who lost loved ones to drug overdoses, who stepped forward and shared their thoughts about where the system was failing and how it could be improved,” said Attorney General Matt Denn. “We listened and tried to turn their suggestions into laws, but the ideas came from those families, and after giving us the ideas they stood shoulder to shoulder with us to make sure the bills were passed.”

“I truly feel that every life matters,” said MaryBeth Cichocki, who lost her son to opioid addiction, and advocated for the new laws. “We are all one injury or surgery away from the disease that continues to take the lives of those we love. As long as I breathe, Matt will continue to live.”

“We are grGov. Carney signs legislation.ateful for all those responsible for the passing of these bills,” said Don Keister, a founder of atTAcK Addiction, whose son lost his battle with addiction. “When families need help, it’s important that services are available without additional delays. If these laws had been around when our son was battling this disease, he may still be alive today.”

Legislation signed into law on Tuesday will take a number of steps to expand access to substance abuse treatment, target barriers to insurance coverage, and improve Delaware’s response to the addiction epidemic.

The package will:

• Prevent private insurers from using pre-authorization and referral requirements to delay access to substance abuse treatment;
• Require insurance companies to cover 14 days of substance abuse treatment before conducting a “utilization review” that can delay treatment;
• Limit insurance companies from denying substance abuse treatment based on “medical necessity” grounds;
• Allow the Department of Justice to use consumer protection funds to advocate for those being denied coverage based on “medical necessity” grounds;
• Establish a new committee to help oversee opioid prescriptions, and strengthen the oversight of over-prescription.

“Even with limitless support, battling addiction is incredibly difficult. But it shouldn’t be made harder by insurance companies and health care providers standing in the way of critical treatment,” said Senate Majority Leader Margaret Rose Henry, the lead Senate sponsor of House Bill 100. “I am grateful to Governor Carney for signing this important legislation into law, so Delawareans never again have to worry about whether they’re covered by insurance before seeking substance abuse treatment that could save their lives.”

“Delawareans who take the initiative to seek treatment for substance abuse shouldn’t have to wade through red tape to get the help they need,” said Senator Stephanie Hansen, the prime sponsor of Senate Bill 41. “I appreciate the Attorney General’s leadership in helping us pass this important legislation, which ensures that insurance companies are forbidden from imposing pre-certifications, screenings, prior authorizations or referrals for those ready to make the potentially life-saving decision to get help.”

“In light of the scourge of addiction, we need to get these people appropriate treatment, when it’s needed,” said Senator Dave Lawson. “Current coverages are insufficient.”

“These measures are necessary first steps towards addressing the needs of a significant portion of the more than 90,000 Delawareans currently suffering from addiction. We mustn’t fail to provide safety-nets for those in need of immediate treatment, and we must work to ensure current policies align with the increasing needs of Delawareans affected by addiction,” said Senator Anthony Delcollo. “Lastly, we cannot continue to operate in a vacuum when addressing addiction, and I am committed to working with my colleagues to aggressively pursue solutions to improve the lives of almost 100,000 Delawareans affected by this horrific disease.”

“If people struggle and stumble as they seek treatment, they should have the ability to come back and get treated again. Addiction is a disease, just like cancer and diabetes, and should be considered as one when it comes to medical treatment. Delawareans struggling with addiction should be extended a helping hand when they seek treatment, not have the door shut in their faces,” said Representative Helene Keeley, the prime Bill Signingssponsor of House Bill 100. “These combined efforts provide us with the necessary resources to battle the opioid epidemic in the First State and remove the stigma associated with substance abuse.”

“These bills will help save lives in Delaware and I am proud to be part of this effort to combat the disease of addiction. Substance abuse treatment helps people reintegrate into society and lead productive lives,” said Representative Michael Mulrooney, the prime sponsor of House Bill 91. “If we deny people suffering from substance abuse the treatment they need, it can lead them to relapse and either end up in the criminal justice system or worse.”

“This package of legislation represents best practices that we are implementing in Delaware in order to strategically address our concerns in battling the heroin and opioid epidemic,” said Representative Ruth Briggs King. “And, we are not done yet. Other bills, such as the substance-exposed infant legislation is working its way through Legislative Hall and should be our next primary focus in this ongoing effort to combat this epidemic.”

“These bills are key to fighting the opioid epidemic in Delaware because they address a very important component of this process – making sure adequate treatment is available to those who need it,” said Representative Tim Dukes. “Without access to treatment, all our efforts may as well be considered for nothing.”

“Collectively, these bills also add to the public awareness that addiction is a disease, that it can be treated, and people do recover,” said Dr. Kara Odom Walker, Secretary of the Department of Health and Social Services. “With addiction, we know that when people are ready for treatment, the window can be small in terms of connecting them to that critical care. At the Department of Health and Social Services, we will do everything in our power to connect that person to the treatment they seek.”

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Related news:
Delaware to Participate in NGA’s Bipartisan Health Reform Learning Network
DHSS Relaunches ‘Help is Here’ Website with Accompanying Prevention, Treatment, and Recovery Support Campaign


Governor Carney Signs Bill Allowing Organ Donation for HIV-Positive Donors and Recipients

Governor also recognized April 2017 as National Donate Life Month in Delaware

Governor Carney signs Senate Bill 17
Governor Carney signs Senate Bill 17.

DOVER, Del.  –  Governor Carney on Tuesday signed into law Senate Bill 17, which allows HIV-positive Delawareans to donate organs to HIV-positive recipients, and allows organs from HIV-positive donors to be used for clinical research.

Governor Carney also signed a proclamation recognizing April 2017 as National Donate Life Month in Delaware.

“Delawareans are compassionate people who understand that organ and tissue donation saves lives,” said Governor Carney. “Our state is already a leader in donor registration. I was proud to sign a proclamation recognizing April 2017 as National Donate Life Month in Delaware and to sign Senate Bill 17, which makes common sense changes to allow even more Delawareans to benefit from the compassion of others and live fuller lives.”

“We’ve come a long way since the 1980s,” said Senator Bryan Townsend, D-Newark, who sponsored the legislation. “This legislation reflects major advances in our scientific and medical understanding of HIV, and it offers an opportunity to substantially improve quality of life and life expectancy for transplant recipients with and without HIV.”

“Our healthcare laws should be driven by research and medical advances and we should do what we can to erase the fear and stigma of previous policies,” said Representative Dave Bentz, D-Newark. “Senate Bill 17 ultimately will help save lives and I am happy that we have paved the way for more people in Delaware to receive the gift of life.”

Governor Carney was joined at the bill signing by Speaker of the Delaware  House of Representatives Pete Schwartzkopf, D-Rehoboth Beach, an organ donor; members of the Gift of Life Donor Program, a nonprofit, federally designated organ procurement organization serving the eastern half of Pennsylvania, southern New Jersey and Delaware; and organ and tissue donation advocates.

“The need for organ and tissue donors is extensive and affects people across our community.” said Howard M. Nathan, President and CEO, Gift of Life Donor Program. “We salute Delaware for its continued advocacy and commitment to our mission.”

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Governor Signs Legislation Creating a Division of Forensic Science

New division replaces Office of the Chief Medical Examiner

Dover, DE – Following a 35 – 4 vote in the House, Governor Markell signed Senate Bill 241 into law today setting up the Division of Forensic Science to take over the operations previously conducted by the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner.  The bill, which was approved by the Senate 18 – 2 earlier this month, reorganizes the forensic sciences in a new Division within the Department of Safety and Homeland Security.  The bill also establishes a Forensic Science Commission to provide important oversight and assistance to the office.

“Forensic science is at the core of our work in the criminal justice system,” said Governor Markell.  “This legislation will help us create a structure for forensic science that can support the criminal justice community in a way that is expert, timely, professionally independent, and accountable.  I would like to thank Senator Marshall, Senator Hall-Long, Rep. Barbieri, and Rep. Mitchell for their leadership in helping us take this important step to improving the operations of this important office.”

The legislation, sponsored by Sen. Robert Marshall (D-Wilmington), Sen. Bethany Hall-Long (D- Middletown), Rep. John Mitchell (D-Elsmere) and Rep. Mike Barbieri (D-Newark) will create a new division director to head the forensic science operation. The Forensic Science Commission will include representatives of law enforcement, forensic science experts, a prosecutor, a public defender and heads of the state Health and Homeland Security agencies.

“This is a modernization of a state agency that we’ve come to find is necessary and long overdue,” said Rep. Barbieri, who chairs the House Health and Human Development Committee. “This legislation creates a new framework for the important jobs done by the medical examiner, with a much improved level of oversight and accountability.”

“We place a tremendous amount of trust in the hands of the medical examiner’s office in our criminal justice system, and we need to know that our trust will be repaid in the form of thorough, professional work,” said Rep. Mitchell, chairman of the House Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee. “The changes being proposed will ensure that we get what we expect from a state crime lab and the individuals appointed to run it.”

The Commission would have oversight of the Division of Forensic Science, including review of its operations, staffing and resource needs, quality assurance, evidence protocols, responsiveness to the criminal justice community, accreditation and audit needs, and maintenance of the professional independence of its expert staff. The Commission would also consider whether additional changes in the structure or the organization of forensic sciences in Delaware would be more efficient or make the office more effective.

“Senate Bill 241 answers the question Delawareans have been asking since this February when the scandal at the Medical Examiner’s Office was revealed: ‘Who is in charge?’” Marshall said. “That answer is the new division and the new director.”

“I think this bill responds to concerns that the division’s independence might be threatened by creating an oversight board to set up procedures and ensures that it can operate without undue influence,” Hall-Long said. “I think the overwhelming support this this measure received in the House and Senate will go a long way to reestablishing public confidence.”

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Governor Markell Signs Good Samaritan Bill to Prevent Overdose Deaths

Law established in memory of Delaware victims

Wilmington, DDSCF8680E –Surrounded by families who have lost loved ones to drug overdoses, Governor Jack Markell signed Senate Bill 116 today to address the rising number of these fatalities by granting criminal immunity to individuals who report an alcohol or drug overdose. The law bears the name of Kristen L. Jackson, who died of a prescription drug overdose in January 2012, when friends were afraid to call 911, and John M. Perkins Jr., who was killed by a heroin overdose in May 2011.

“If we might save just one life by removing the fear that prevents a victim or friend from calling for help, we should not hesitate,” said Markell, who also thanked the relatives of Jackson, Perkins and other victims.

“While dealing with a level of grief that most of us cannot comprehend, these families stepped forward to tell their stories of loss in the hope of preventing others from experiencing their heartache. Their efforts were crucial in establishing the Kristen L Jackson and John M. Perkins Jr. Law.”

SB 116 passed the Senate on June 18 and the House on June 26, with no dissenting votes in either chamber. It provides that someone who seeks medical attention for an overdose or life threatening emergency, including for him or herself, will not be arrested or prosecuted for crimes detailed in the law. These offenses do not include the most serious felonies, Classes A, B and C.

“This is a very big step and I’m thrilled that it has been signed into law today,” said Sen. Cathy Cloutier (R-Heatherbrooke), the bill’s prime sponsor. “I believe it is a law that will save lives in Delaware. Now we need to educate people that if they are with friends, they don’t need to be afraid to call 911 if things get out of hand. No one should die because of another’s fear of getting in trouble.”DSCF8663

“This has been an important, bipartisan effort on the part of Senator Cloutier and myself to save the lives of Delawareans,” said Sen. Bryan Townsend, D-Newark, who also sponsored the bill. “We appreciate the help and input of the Delaware State Police, the Attorney General’s Office and the University of Delaware in crafting a law that will do just that. I also appreciate the leadership of the Senate, the House and of Governor Markell for acting quickly to enact this life-saving measure.”

Representatives Helene Keeley (D-Wilmington South), Michael Barbieri (D-Newark) and Michael Mulrooney (D-Pennwood) sponsored the bill in the House.

The new law builds on Delaware’s ongoing commitment to ending the epidemic of prescription drug abuse, which kills more Delawareans every year than traffic accidents. Last year, the Department of State launched the prescription monitoring program to track prescriptions and identify medical professional who abuse their license to prescribe highly addictive drugs.

Before ending its 2013 session Sunday night, the General Assembly passed reforms backed by the Department to mandate doctors’ participation in the program, while also reducing the amount of pills that can be prescribed in emergencies, and, for the first time, requiring prescribers and dispensers to take mandatory controlled substances training.

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Governor Signs Gender Identity Nondiscrimination Act

Protects transgender individuals from discrimination

Dover, DE – Governor Jack Markell signed the Gender Identity Nondiscrimination Act (SB 97) today, ensuring equal legal protections to transgender individuals in Delaware.

The bill forbids discrimination against a person on the basis of gender identity and provides for increased punishment of a person who intentionally selects the victim of a crime because of the victim’s gender identity. Prior to its passage, it has been legal to fire someone, deny them housing, or throw them out of a restaurant simply because they are transgender.

The changes established by the SB 97 afford transgender Delawareans the same legal protections already granted to everyone on the basis of race, religion, ethnicity, and sexual orientation, among other characteristics. Nearly 200 Delaware businesses had signed a statement of support for the passage of the law.

“Our mission to build a welcoming and accepting state that can compete in the global economy requires laws that reflect our values,” said Markell. “Today, we guarantee that our transgender relatives and neighbors can work hard, participate in our communities, and live their lives with dignity and in safety.”

“I especially want to thank my friend Sarah McBride, an intelligent and talented Delawarean who happens to be transgender. She courageously stood before the General Assembly to describe her personal struggles with gender identity and communicate her desire to return home after her college graduation without fear. Her tireless advocacy for passage of this legislation has made a real difference for all transgender people in Delaware.”

The Senate passed the final version of the bill earlier in the day by an 11-9 vote following approval in the House on Tuesday by a 24-17 margin. Senate Majority Whip Margaret Rose Henry, D-Wilmington East, was the lead sponsor, with additional sponsorship from Senate President Patricia Blevins and Representative Bryon Short.

“This simply does something that should have been done a long time ago. We are extending the same basic protections against discrimination and hate crimes that all our other citizens enjoy to a group that has been discriminated against for a long time,” said Henry. “When the governor signs this bill, it says Delaware is a welcoming place to come and live and that we welcome all people and that we treat them fairly and equitably.”

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