W.Va. Senate Health and Human Resources passes SB 173 on office-based medication assisted treatment.

By Erica Young

WV Press Capitol Reporter

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The Senate Health and Human Resources Committee met this afternoon to discuss Bill 173 — to allow the Department of Health and Human Resources to promote a legislative rule on office-based medication assisted treatment.

The DHHR defines medication-assisted treatment as “the use of medications and drug screens, in combination with counseling and behavioral therapies, to provide a holistic approach to the treatment of substance use disorders.

Jolynn Marra, director of the Office of Health Facility Licensure and Communication, testifies before Senate Health and Human Resources. WVPA Photo

Recent changes to the bill eliminated risk management requirements and updates to the medication storage policy. Those changes would give individual groups more freedom to set their own policies.

During the explanation of the bill, the committee heard that public comments on the rule were mostly positive and thought it made services “more available.”

Senator Ron Stollings, D-Boone, expressed concern about part of the rule pertaining to administrative withdrawal, saying he wanted to make sure that patients would be kept in recovery for as long as possible.

Stollings said, “If they aren’t in recovery, bad things are about to happen to that person.”

Language was added to the rule saying that administrative withdrawal should be used as a last resort after the medication-assisted treatment “exhausts all efforts to address the patient’s behavior or actions that would warrant administrative withdrawal.”

Senator Rollan Roberts, R-Raleigh, asked whether or not there is any communication between different agencies. Marra said there is no required communication, but that OHFLAC does sometimes communicate on its own when there are misunderstandings between agencies. Marra’s example was when OHFLAC and a local health department are saying the same thing in different ways.

Committee Chair Senator Mike Maroney, R-Marshall, addressed Senator Stollings’ earlier worries and said most comments on the rule came from “respected individuals at Marshall and WVU that take part in these treatments,”  Maroney delayed the hearing of the rule by a week because he wanted to communicate directly with these professionals and make sure their concerns were addressed. Maroney said changes made to the rule came from their issues with the way things were working.

Senator Eric Tarr, R-Putnam, vice chair on the committee, made a motion to recommend the bill to pass after first being referred to the Judiciary Committee.

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