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Bipartisan concerns raised about amendment to opioid crisis bill

Although an opioid bill may be headed for prime time, some legislators are skeptical of a new provision on addiction assessments.

Such was the discussion before the House Health and Human Services Finance Committee laid over HF1440, as amended, Monday night for possible omnibus bill inclusion.

Rep. Dave Baker (R-Willmar), the bill sponsor, told the committee about the desperate effort to help opioid users.

“We are fighting like mad to keep them alive,” he said.

An Opioid Addiction Prevention and Treatment Advisory Council would be created, under the bill, to review state opioid policy and make recommendations to the Human Services Department to address opioid addiction. It also calls for $16.5 million to be transferred from the General Fund in Fiscal Year 2019 to, in part, fund county child protection services related to opioid addiction and provide grants to counties for opioid-related program.

The bill would also appropriate an additional $3.5 million from the General Fund to the Board of Pharmacy so it could integrate its prescription monitoring program with statewide health records. 

The amendment would broaden the types of professionals who could perform addiction assessments. It would allow a person who is not an alcohol or drug counselor to perform any part of the assessment that overlaps with their “competencies and scope of practice.”  A counselor would then review the assessment and sign off on its accuracy.

Both Republican and DFL members of the committee raised concern.

Rep. Jack Considine Jr. (DFL-Mankato) doubted the accuracy of addiction screenings performed by non-qualified people.

“I would be very concerned about the data you would be collecting, and I would have questions about the quality of the assessments that would be coming back,” he said.

Rep. Tony Albright (R-Prior Lake) said he was troubled by the possibility that counselors would simply rubber stamp the earlier assessment without checking it.

Rep. Diane Loeffler (DFL-Mpls) said there were no specifications in the amendment beyond the words “a staff person” regarding who would be doing assessments that include intimate questions about things like sexually transmitted diseases.

“I can’t vote for something that doesn’t make sure it’s not just the receptionist,” she said.

Baker said he would re-examine the language to address their concerns.

The companion, SF730, is sponsored by Sen. Julie Rosen (R-Vernon Center) and awaits action by the Senate Finance Committee. 

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