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West Virginia Senate committee covers controlled substance exemptions, benefits for firefighters, child welfare and more

By Erika Diehl, West Virginia Press Association

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Exemptions for controlled substance monitoring and solidifying workers compensation for fire firefighters were two agenda items that got unanimous support in the Senate Health and Human Resources Committee this week.

The two concurrent resolutions and three house bills adopted on Tuesday were reported to the full senate on Wednesday.

House Bill 2028 would make veterinarians exempt from the requirements of controlled substance monitoring. Michael Goff, executive director of the West Virginia Board of Pharmacy, was present to answer questions.

When asked if there would still be a method to investigate veterinarians who were potentially giving narcotics to a dog owner, Goff said the board would have access to the information necessary.

“The visibility of this is a concern with the issues we’ve had,” Goff said. “It doesn’t look the best to remove a tracking of controlled substances at any time.”

The committee chair, Sen. Michael Maroney, R- Marshall, clarified that a bill was already passed and signed this year removing the requirement that veterinarians look at the database. This bill cleans up the intent of the previous bill.

When asked if a veterinarian was concerned that a pet owner was only bringing an animal in as a diversion to obtain controlled substances, Goff said although they would not be required to check, they would still have access to the controlled substance monitoring database.

House Bill 3045 revisits an amendment regarding workers compensation for professional firefighters. 

In 2018, the section of legislature regarding disability and death benefits for firefighters was amended to include leukemia, lymphoma, or multiple myeloma as occupational diseases that are a rebuttable presumption. This amendment established a sunset provision set to expire July, 1, 2023, and HB 3045 would delete that sunset provision.

“It’s been three years since we did this,” Sen. Maroney said. “To my knowledge, there has been one disability claim in three years and that gentleman already went back to work this year.”

House Concurrent Resolution 35 makes a request for DHHR to continuously evaluate the child welfare system. The resolution specifically identifies the caseworker workforce in the Bureau for Children and Families.

Sen. Ron Stollings, D- Boone, proposed an amendment, adding “and other workforce issues.” He said it is important to broaden the definition of workforce to include the wrap around services that influence children, whether it be social workers, counselors, or psychologists.

House Concurrent Resolution 15 recognizes the last day of February every year as Rare Disease Day. Through this resolution, the committee hopes to raise awareness of rare diseases and the continued need to fund research and treatment options.

Finally, House Bill 2877 expands direct health care agreements to include the board of physical therapy. While this agreement is not considered insurance necessarily, it would provide care for a fixed type of health care benefit.

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