Senate Bill 616: Heroin and Opioid Prevention and Enforcement (HOPE) Act

By Josh Frost

24 October 2018

 

Abstract

The HOPE Act responds to the growing crisis of opioid addiction in North Carolina, which claimed over 12,000 lives between 1999 and 2016. The act creates a “certified diversion investigator” to aid law enforcement in drug crime investigations. The investigator is given access to prescription records during illicit drug investigations. In addition, more than $11 million has been allocated to provide opioid treatment. Proponents of the bill hail the HOPE Act as a good step toward prevention of opioid related deaths in North Carolina, while opponents raise privacy concerns for patients and doctors.

History

Opioids are a class of pharmaceutical compounds commonly prescribed for their analgesic or pain-relieving properties. Some common opioids include oxycodone (brand name OxyContin), hydrocodone (brand name Vicodin), fentanyl, heroin, and morphine, among others. Misuse of opioids can lead to physical and psychological dependence, with a high potential for overdose and death.[1] There are several opioid antagonists, which “turn off” opioid receptors, allowing potential reversal of an overdose. From 1999 to 2016, more than 12,000 people died from opioid overdoses in North Carolina alone.[2] The economic costs for opioid overdose deaths has been estimated to be greater than $1.5 billion.[3]

The Bill[4]

The Heroin and Opioid Prevention and Enforcement (HOPE) Act designates the creation of a “certified diversion investigator” associated with North Carolina law enforcement with access to prescription records. The goal of these investigators is to improve drug investigations and curtail trafficking of illicit drugs, including opioids, in the state of North Carolina.

In addition to diversion investigators, the HOPE Act allocates $10 million to the Mental Health, Developmental Disabilities, and Substance Abuse Services Division of the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services to “increase the availability of community-based treatment and recovery services” for substance abuse illnesses, and $1 million for the purchase of opioid antagonists. It also appropriates to the State Bureau of Investigation $160,000 to fund Operation Medicine Drop, and $122,000 in recurring and $58,000 in non-recurring funds to create a special agent position to head drug investigations in the state.[5]

Who Supports the HOPE Act?

North Carolina law enforcement has offered vocal support for the HOPE Act, as well as North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein.[6] Stein said of the HOPE Act: “The HOPE Act focuses on smart enforcement to stop the spread of these deadly drugs on our streets.”[7] House Rep. Greg Murphy praised the bill, saying that law enforcement across the state needs “fast access” to address the opioid crisis.[8]

Who Opposes the HOPE Act?

Some groups and representatives are concerned about patient privacy with regards to the HOPE Act. Rep. Robert Reives said: “[The HOPE Act] is a really uncomfortable step forward on how we treat privacy. If you can’t get into my iPhone, it seems like you shouldn’t really be able to get into my prescription records.”[9] Donald McDonald, the executive director of Addiction Professionals of North Carolina, said the bill “criminalizes” but does not treat addiction: “The HOPE Act is an enforcement bill that is kind of mischaracterized as a prevention bill.”[10]

[1] Abuse, “Opioids.”

[2] “NCDHHS: Opioid Epidemic”; Kansagra and Cohen, “The Opioid Epidemic in NC Progress, Challenges, and Opportunities.”

[3] Kansagra and Cohen, “The Opioid Epidemic in NC Progress, Challenges, and Opportunities.”

[4] “Senate Bill 616 / SL 2018-44 (2017-2018 Session) – North Carolina General Assembly.”

[5] “News Releases & Advisories.”

[6] “HOPE Act Signed Into Law To Fight NC Opioid Crisis”; “News Releases & Advisories.”

[7] “News Releases & Advisories.”

[8] “Police Access to Prescription Database Approved in the NC Legislature.”

[9] “HOPE Act Heads to Governor but Civil Liberties Concerns Remain.”

[10] “Police Access to Prescription Database Approved in the NC Legislature.”

Works Cited

Abuse, National Institute on Drug. “Opioids.” Accessed September 26, 2018. https://www.drugabuse.gov/drugs-abuse/opioids.

“HOPE Act Heads to Governor but Civil Liberties Concerns Remain.” Accessed September 26, 2018. https://www.carolinajournal.com/news-article/hope-act-heads-to-governor-but-civil-libertarian-concerns-remain/.

“HOPE Act Signed Into Law To Fight NC Opioid Crisis.” WFMY. Accessed September 26, 2018. https://www.wfmynews2.com/article/news/local/hope-act-signed-into-law-to-fight-nc-opioid-crisis/83-566846620.

Kansagra, Susan M., and Mandy K. Cohen. “The Opioid Epidemic in NC Progress, Challenges, and Opportunities.” North Carolina Medical Journal 79, no. 3 (May 1, 2018): 157–62. https://doi.org/10.18043/ncm.79.3.157.

“NCDHHS: Opioid Epidemic.” Accessed September 26, 2018. https://www.ncdhhs.gov/about/department-initiatives/opioid-epidemic.

“News Releases & Advisories.” Accessed September 26, 2018. https://www.ncdoj.gov/News-and-Alerts/News-Releases-and-Advisories/Legislators-Announce-HOPE-Act-to-Confront-Opioid-E.aspx.

“Police Access to Prescription Database Approved in the NC Legislature.” newsobserver. Accessed September 26, 2018. https://www.newsobserver.com/news/politics-government/article213193544.html.

“Senate Bill 616 / SL 2018-44 (2017-2018 Session) – North Carolina General Assembly.” Accessed September 26, 2018. https://www2.ncleg.net/BillLookUp/2017/S616.

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