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Monroe News: Walberg leads bipartisan legislation to prevent opioid abuse

February 20, 2018
Tim In The News

A bipartisan bill to help prevent the misuse or diversion of unused medications following a hospice patient’s death has been introduced in Congress by U.S. Rep. Tim Walberg.

The bill, called the Safe Disposal of Unused Medication Act (H. R. 5041), would equip hospice professionals with the legal authority to safely dispose of unused drugs after a hospice patient’s death.

U.S. Reps. Debbie Dingell, D- Dearborn, and Richard Hudson, R- North Carolina, joined as original co-sponsors of the measure.

The bill is a bipartisan response to the opioid crisis, Walberg, a Republican from Tipton, said.

“Many patients receiving hospice care need painkillers to help with end-of-life pain, but any leftover medication can unfortunately end up in the wrong hands,” he said in a press release. “Our bill equips hospices and caregivers with the right to destroy unused meds after a patient passes away, helping to ensure it is not diverted into the community.”

Ensuring that all unused opioids are safely disposed of and not diverted is an essential part of combating the opioid epidemic, Dingell said.

“The Safe Disposal of Unused Medication Act is a common-sense solution that allows hospice workers to safely dispose of a patient’s unused pain medications in their home, reducing the risk for misuse in the community,” she said. “We can only fully address the crisis through multifaceted approaches like this one.”

“Making sure unused drugs don’t end up in the wrong hands is one of the biggest problems we face in fighting the opioid crisis,” Hudson said. “I am proud to partner with Reps. Walberg and Dingell on this legislation... Combatting the opioid crisis is a priority of mine, and we will continue our critical work to save lives and restore our communities.”

In recent years, the diversion of unused opioids used to treat patients under in- home hospice care has become an increasingly significant problem. While the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) encourages hospice staff to assist families to destroy leftover medications, agency regulations forbid hospice personnel from disposing of the medication themselves unless authorized by state law. The act is supported by the National Association for Home Care & Hospice and the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization.

This article originally appeared in the February 20 edition of the Monroe News.