HHS Announces Agreement with WV Over OUD-Based Discriminatory Practices

On Wednesday, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of Civil Rights announced an agreement with the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources that works to protect the rights of individuals with opioid use disorder following an instance related to discrimination in a state child welfare case. According to a complaint filed with the Bureau of Children and Families Programs, a set of individuals (an aunt and uncle) was denied custody of their young niece and nephew based upon the uncle’s use of Suboxone to augment his long-term recovery from opioid use disorder. Despite favorable findings elsewhere in the review, social workers determined the suboxone use as a detriment to the application. An OCR review of the program found “systematic deficiencies “regarding West Virginia’s implementation of its disability rights policies, practices, and procedures to ensure the civil rights of individuals in recovery from OUD.”

Shortly after OCR review, a voluntary resolution agreement was formed in April 2020 that would require the state to update its nondiscrimination policies and update the case file in interest such that it may be re-reviewed.

Upon announcement of the agreement, Director of the Office of Civil Rights said, “People in recovery from opioid use disorder should never be stigmatized for seeking appropriate medical treatment that can save their lives… OCR commends West Virginia’s willingness to update its policies and procedures to make sure individuals with disabilities do not face unlawful discrimination based on either misinformation or stereotypes in its state’s child welfare system.”

Articles & Resources

HHS Newsroom – OCR Secures Agreement with West Virginia to Protect Persons in Recovery from Opioid Use Disorder from Discrimination on the Basis of Disability

Omnicare To Pay $15 Million to Resolve Lapses in Long-Term Care Opioid Prescribing and Dispensing

The Drug Enforcement Administration and U.S. Attorney for the District of Oregon announced this week a $15.3 million civil monetary settlement with CVS Health subsidiary Omnicare for violations of controlled substance laws throughout its long-term care facilities. According to the settlement agreement, in which Omnicare admits no liability, it is alleged that the defendant undertook lax oversight of emergency kits, which contained controlled substances, and processing of written prescriptions for opioid products. DEA and its partners found that many of those written prescriptions lacked prescriber signatures or appropriate DEA numbers. In some instances, it is alleged that Omnicare professionals would remove prescription opioids from the emergency kits prior to receiving a valid prescription.

As part of the settlement, Omnicare has also entered a Memorandum of Agreement with the DEA that subjects the company to further audits and monitoring of controlled substances within its facilities.

Articles & Resources

DEA Newsroom – Omnicare Agrees to Pay Over $15 Million to Resolve Allegations It Improperly Dispensed Opioids at Long-Term Care Facilities

STAT News – CVS Long-Term Care Pharmacy Pays $15 Million Penalty for Failing to Track Opioids

What We Read Last Week

Several articles were published last week pertaining to the opioid epidemic, covering a variety of different components of the issue. Links to relevant articles are provided below.

Articles & Resources

Washington Post – The Health 202: Coronavirus Could Worsen the Opioid Abuse Epidemic

Forbes – Rehab 2.0: YC-Backed Ophelia Raises $2.7 Million To Help People Quit Opioids Without The Burden And Cost Of Rehab

CNN – The Pandemic is Triggering Opioid Relapses Across Appalachia

STAT News – COVID-19 Has Streamlined Addiction Medicine. Will the Changes Stick?

Modern Healthcare – Communication Can Reduce Opioid Misuse in Home Hospice Care

Harvard Health Blog – A Tale of Two Epidemics: When COVID-19 and Opioid Addiction Collide

St. Louis Post-Dispatch – With Hours Left in the Legislative Session, Plan to Track Opioids in Missouri Stalls in the Senate

Orange County Register – How Many Body-Brokering Cases Have Been Prosecuted by the Feds Under New Law?

Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation – COVID-19 Tests Help Keep Residential Addiction Treatment as Safe as Possible for Growing Numbers Who Need Care

WRDW12 – As COVID-19 Pandemic Grows, So Does South Carolina’s Opioid Problem

New York Attorney General Newsroom – Attorney General James’ Statement After U.S. Bankruptcy Court Allows Subpoenas to Move Forward Against Sackler Family Banks and Financial Institutions in Opioid Case

This Week’s Calendar

We hope that everyone is remaining safe and healthy during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Both the House and Senate have returned from extended time in district due to COVID-19.

There are no relevant hearings or markups scheduled at this time. In the instance that there are any changes to the schedule for this week, we will make additional information available.

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