HUNTINGTON — Gov. Jim Justice has signed 351 bills into law, including a handful of bills aimed at substance use and substance use disorder.
Ranging in topics from methamphetamine production to preventing addiction from taking root in the first place, Justice has signed into law some of session’s major substance abuse legislation.
Seeing use of the amphetamine make a comeback in the past year, lawmakers passed and Justice signed House Bill 4852, which raises methamphetamine to the level of a Schedule I or II narcotic. Penalties for the production, distribution or intent to distribute or manufacture the drug will now be no less than one year nor more than 15 years, or fined not more than $25,000, or both fined and imprisoned. The bill goes into effect June 5.
Justice has also signed Senate Bill 678, which waives fines associated with getting a driver’s license for those who have successfully completed the Getting Over Addictive Lifestyles, or GOALs, program in the regional jail system.
Justice has also signed bills that are aimed at helping those who have not yet escaped their substance use disorder.
Senate Bill 838, modeled after a program in Kentucky, directs the West Virginia State Police to create a program in collaboration with the state Office of Drug Control Policy to create a substance use disorder treatment referral program. Substance users can turn over their paraphernalia and substances to the state police with no repercussions if they enter treatment through the program. The bill was made effective from passage.
He also signed a bill, HB 4009, which authorizes physicians to order a 72-hour involuntary hospitalization of a patient deemed to be at risk of harming themselves or others due to addiction or mental illness. The bill is similar to Kentucky’s “Casey’s Law,” which provides a means of intervening with someone who is unable to recognize his or her need for treatment due to their impairment. Kentucky’s law also will allow parents, relatives and/or friends to petition the court for treatment on behalf of the substance abuse-impaired person.
Justice has also signed two bills aimed at preventing substance use disorder in the first place.
House Bill 4773 establishes a workgroup managed by the Bureau of Public Health to establish guidelines, tools and protocols for primary healthcare providers on how to screen for and address adverse childhood effects, or ACEs. ACEs are potentially traumatic events and environmental conditions during childhood. A high ACE score has been linked to substance use disorder and other bad health outcomes.
Justice also signed the somewhat controversial bill, Senate Bill 42, which permits elective faith-based drug prevention in the K-12 public schools. The bill was opposed by the ACLU of West Virginia, which says it violates the U.S. constitution.
The Legislature’s attempt to address what is being called the vaping epidemic was also signed by Justice. House Bill 4494 creates a task force that will recommend and monitor the establishment and management of programs that are found to be effective in the reduction of all tobacco use, including e-cigarettes, with a strong focus on the prevention of children and young adults’ use of tobacco products.
The legislation as passed by the House provided a funding stream to support the task force, directing 25% of the previous year’s interest earnings from the revenue shortfall reserve fund part B into a new special revenue program fund. That did not make it in the final legislation, however, and the American Cancer Society’s lobby group said this is a good first step, but funding is needed to really address tobacco use.