Health and Human Services Interim Committee holds sunset reviews for substance abuse legislation and adverse event reporting


Patrick Jones


The Health and Human Services Interim Committee met Wednesday and held sunset reviews for different, previously passed bills to determine if the purpose of the legislation is being accomplished. The legislature focused on bills around prescription rules for controlled substances, anesthesia adverse events, and the Utah Substance Abuse and Mental Health Advisory Council (USAAV+). 


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During the meeting, the committee created a bill file and put their recommendations for the changes in sunset dates in the file. 

Subsection 58-37-6(7)(f)(iii) states Schedule II and Schedule III opiates — drugs that have high to medium risk of abuse, respectively — cannot be filled exceeding a seven-day supply of the drug. The Division of Occupational and Professional Living (DOPL) in the Utah Department of Commerce (DOC) said this rule has a great impact through education of the dangers of overprescribing and abuse. A DOPL report said:

“It is directly supporting a paradigm shift in the use of opiate pain medication.”

Anecdotally, DOPL said this statute is causing doctors to prescribe more non-opiate pain medications for acute pain and patients are not asking for stronger medications or refills. Rep. Raymond Ward (R-Bountiful) said this provision is having the intended effect and people are changing their habits. The committee agreed to recommend extending the sunset date in 2022 by ten years. 

The committee also discussed the sunset of House Bill 142, which created a database for reported adverse events for anesthesia-related incidents. DOPL and the Department of Health (DOH) both said there has been a lack of information and underreporting. DOH said it will need more time assessing the information coming in to get a better scope of the problem. 

However, Sen. Michael Kennedy (R-Cedar Hills), sponsor of the bill, was advocating to let the bill sunset to focus on taking action to prevent adverse events in the anesthesia space. He said:

“As a sponsor of this original legislation, my recommendation is that we allow this to sunset, but that we as a committee, as individuals, and as servants of the public try to make sure they are safe and protected so that we consider moving policies forward based on the data that we have.”

The committee allowed the bill to sunset, but has plans to propose legislation in the next legislative session to address this issue. 

The committee also discussed the continuation of USAAV+. Council members and Department of Human Services (DHS) representatives urged the committee to extend the sunset date in 2022 by ten years due to the council’s leadership and voice in behavioral health. 

Doug Thomas, director of the DHS Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health, said:

“It is an essential voice that brings together public and private interests that are all related to integration and specialty mental health and substance use care.”

Rep. Ward said the council has been doing great work and is doing everything it is intended to do. The committee agreed to recommend a ten year extension to the sunset date.