LEGISLATION ACTION ALERT: HB 137

LEGISLATION ACTION ALERT: HB 137

What:
HB 137, Rep. Quinn
This bill is intended to compel individuals who overdose to obtain a screening and referral for addiction treatment by making immunity from prosecution contingent upon their doing so within 30 days of receiving emergency services for the overdose.

Contact (phone or email):
Hon. Stan Saylor
Chair, House Appropriations Committee

Hon. Matthew Bradford
Democratic Chair, House Appropriations Committee

Please review the members of the House Appropriations Committee – if you live or operate a program in the district of any of these members, please contact that member as well.

When: By December 16, 2019

Why: HB 137 has significant potential to have serious unintended consequences that may ultimately result in deaths, avoidance or delay of medical care, and overburdening an already stressed system of care for Pennsylvanians struggling with the disease of addiction.

Talking points:

  • Ask the Committee Chairs and any other committee members to VOTE NO when HB 137 comes before the committee
  • Many people who are actively using drugs have a deep distrust of emergency responders and fear of being arrested and prosecuted for drug related crimes, despite the passage of “David’s Law.” Word-of-mouth accounts of inconsistencies by police and prosecutors maintain this fear and are a barrier to contacting emergency assistance, even during an overdose.

If passed, this bill is very likely to exacerbate these fears and further inhibit or delay calls for assistance in a life and death situation when seconds count.

  • For individuals who are not yet ready or contemplating beginning treatment, mandating treatment is ineffective and may deter them from seeking help in the future.
  • Many providers of drug & alcohol treatment are working near or at capacity, particularly for patients whose care is paid for with public dollars. This bill will increase the demand for treatment providers to spend time and dollars on evaluations for people who are not ready or interested in treatment. This essentially deters resources from people who are actively seeking care.
  • From the bill, it is also unclear whether an individual would still be prosecuted if their screening does not indicate a referral for treatment, or if they receive a referral but do not enter treatment.
  • We share the concern for the health and wellbeing of Pennsylvanians who are overdose survivors and consider them a priority population. We also recognize that people who suffer from the disease of addiction may require a variety of kinds of engagements with helping professionals before deciding to enter treatment. Each of the commonwealth’s 47 Single County Authorities has a warm hand-off policy that involves emergency personnel, physical and psychiatric health services, Certified Recovery Specialists, primary care, and pain management physicians, as appropriate, to engage this vulnerable population in a variety of ways.
  • We know that the decision to enter treatment that leads to sustained recovery cannot be legislated.

Questions, contact Kristen Houser, RCPA Director of Drug & Alcohol Division, or Jack Phillips, RCPA Director of Government Affairs.

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