Reynolds outlines priorities for opioids but not legislation

October 26, 2017

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds said Thursday that she’ll prioritize existing initiatives to combat opioid abuse but stopped short of offering specifics on future legislation or pledging additional state money.

During her weekly press conference, Reynolds referenced the state’s participation in a prescription monitoring program and education efforts about the harmful effects of the drugs.

“Iowa has taken a multifaceted approach to combating the opioid epidemic and we know that we need to do more,” she said.

The GOP-controlled Legislature returns to the state Capitol in January, and it’s unclear what opioid-related policies it might consider. A list of priorities distributed after Reynolds’ remarks didn’t include any legislative proposals.

Reynolds’ press secretary, Brenna Smith, said later in an email that the governor was generally supportive of a so-called Good Samaritan law that would ensure some legal protections for individuals seeking emergency help during an overdose.

“The governor will carefully consider any legislation to put forth to address opioids in Iowa. She is still in the process of formulating her 2018 legislative package,” Smith said.

That’s also the case on funding. Reynolds highlighted existing grant money aimed at opioid abuse, but no specifics on whether state money should be increased. Information on what the state spends on opioids is limited because it’s grouped under a wide umbrella of substance abuse efforts.

“Any additional funding should only be considered once we’re sure current funding is being used as efficiently as possible to prevent the abuse of opioids in Iowa,” Smith added.

Opioids include both prescription pain relievers, such as oxycodone, and illegal substances such as heroin. The Iowa Department of Public Health released data earlier this year that shows about 146 opioid-related deaths in the state in 2016, up from 59 in 2005.

Lawmakers from both parties have indicated an interest in addressing the epidemic next session. An interim legislative committee met earlier this month to hear testimony from health care professionals and others. They’re expected to release a report in November.

Reynolds’ comments came on the same day that President Donald Trump declared the opioid crisis a national public health emergency. Trump’s declaration includes no new money, and a state health official said it’s not immediately clear how it will impact Iowa.

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