Westrick: Summer study committees to focus on health-related topics

westrick-mindy-mug-iba Westrick

By Mindy Westrick

July 1, 2018, was the effective date for many new laws, including a number of enrolled acts on health-related topics such as opioids, CBD oil and hospitals, to name a few. While it is likely that the 2018 legislative session is defined by Sunday sales if you ask anyone over 21 — or by the new state insect, Say’s Firefly, if you ask anyone in elementary school — the health-related bills were very important nonetheless.

In fact, one of Gov. Eric Holcomb’s five pillars of his Next Level legislative agenda includes fighting the drug epidemic, and the Legislature passed a handful of bills to address the issue. House Enrolled Act 1007 allows the Division of Mental Health and Addiction to add nine additional opioid treatment programs. HEA 1359 tightens the penalties for drug dealing resulting in death. Senate Enrolled Act 13 allows community corrections officers and probation officers to administer an overdose intervention drug and includes reporting requirements. SEA 139 obtains more information from the county coroners if they believe a death is related to an overdose of a controlled substance. And SEA 221 expands INSPECT, the state’s prescription drug monitoring program.

CBD oil was a hot topic after the excise raids and opinion from Attorney General Curtis Hill in 2017. SEA 52 passed with overwhelming support in both houses and allows for the sale and use of cannabis-derived CBD oil as long as it has a THC level that is 0.3 percent or lower. The legislation also establishes testing, packaging and labeling requirements for the distribution and retail sale and repeals the cannabidiol registry that was created with the 2017 legislation.

The health committees also covered HEA 1017, which adds spinal muscular atrophy and severe combined immunodeficiency to the list of disorders in the newborn screening requirements. In addition, the Legislature passed HEA 1119, which adds licensed dentists, home health aides and physician assistants to the definition of “health care provider” for purposes of a POST form. The legislation also creates a hierarchical structure on who may make decisions about scope of treatment for patients who lack capacity to make their own decisions. The last one to point out is HEA 1260, which requires the Indiana State Department of Health to issue a hospital license to a hospital that has received accreditation by recognized accrediting organizations, beginning on Jan. 1. The legislation includes a number of other provisions to support this change to streamline state licensure and national accreditation.

While the list of health-related bills from 2018 goes on to include a ban on eyeball tattoos, there is still more health-related work to be done. The Interim Study Committee on Public Health, Behavioral Health, and Human Services will meet later this summer and fall. Rep. Cindy Kirchhofer (R-Indianapolis) will chair the committee made up of six additional members from the House of Representatives, seven members from the Senate, including vice chair Sen. Liz Brown (R-Fort Wayne), and four lay members. The four lay members are Dr. Kevin Burke, Richard Feldman, former Republican Sen. Patricia Miller and Derek Sprunger.

The committee will hear testimony on four topics. First, they will study issues related to use of medical marijuana. Second, the committee will study the impact that opioid treatment programs have on the neighborhoods and communities in the immediate area of the opioid treatment programs. They will look at the surrounding criminal activity, emergency medical services, quality of life, local economy and other direct impacts. They will also study other states’ and localities’ best practices to monitor and regulate opioid treatment programs to reduce negative impacts. Third, they will study the impact of the nurse licensure compact, including recent changes made to the nurse licensure compact, benefits other states have realized from joining the compact, access to nursing services in underserved areas as a result of adopting the compact, increased employment opportunities, and issues concerning the oversight and enforcement of standards of practice of nurses. Fourth, the committee will study imposing conditions to receive benefits from the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and Medicaid. Those conditions include eligibility verification and monitoring, identity authentication and prohibition of waivers of work requirements for both programs, as well as cooperation with child support enforcement activities for SNAP.

There are also health-related topics that will be studied in other interim study committees later this summer and fall. Those include autism and public education in the Committee on Education. The Committee on Courts and the Judiciary will study issues related to the Department of Child Services. The Committee on Fiscal Policy will study the fiscal, economic and workforce development impact of Indiana smoking rates. Lastly, the Water Infrastructure Task Force will study the standards and funding for drinking water and wastewater management.

All of the committees will hear testimony and generate reports that may lead to introduced legislation in 2019. The 2019 legislative session will begin in early January and have at least 18 new faces after retirements and the shake-out of the election in November, when all of the House seats and half of the Senate seats are up for election.•

Mindy Westrick is an associate at Faegre Baker Daniels LLP. Opinions expressed are those of the author.

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