Public health expert hails new opioid regulation law is a "great first step"

Governor Kim Reynolds signed an opioid regulation bill into law Monday, after the measure got bipartisan approval in the legislature. (Caroline Cummings)

A public health expert hails a new law aimed at curbing the opioid crisis in Iowa as a "great first step" for the state.

Governor Kim Reynolds signed the bipartisan legislation into law Monday in Dubuque.

"With this legislation, we are taking the first step to reverse this heart-wrenching trend," said Reynolds in a statement.

Deborah Thompson is a policy advisor and legislative liaison for the Iowa Department of Public Health tasked with arming lawmakers with facts to understand public health problems and pinpoint solutions.

For her, the opioid epidemic hits home. She lost her husband, Joe, to a heroin overdose in September 2016, after he struggled on-and-off with addiction for a decade.

She says his addiction began with prescription pills. the target of the new law, which is designed to reduce the number of opioids prescribed in the state.

“His was a very tragically common story in that he gotten into a car accident, had become addicted to prescription drug medication he’d been prescribed to and from there, for struggle for over a decade," Thompson said.

She hopes the new law will mean more lives saved, calling the legislation a "great first step" as a preventative measure aimed at stopping addiction before it starts.

“In order to stop a problem before it starts you have to turn a faucet off," Thompson said.

The new law requires doctors to use the prescription monitoring program, which tracks drug prescriptions. It also gets rid of paper prescriptions, moving to electronic prescriptions in order to stop “doctor shopping."

“If Joe’s doctors had been looking at the prescription monitoring program arguably that would have lead him down a different path. Which path we’ll never know," Thompson said.

The new law also establishes "Good Samaritan" provisions in Iowa, which protects someone from drug charges if they seek help in the case of an emergency like a drug-related overdose.

Thompson admits that combating the opioid crisis doesn’t start or end with this bill that passed this session, but says the bipartisan effort does a lot of good

“You see the political discourse taking place in our country—this was a huge win. I’m extremely proud of the democratic process in this and I’m proud of the legislature handled this first step.”

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