Delaware targets prescription drug abuse with new law

 (AP Photo/Toby Talbot, File)

(AP Photo/Toby Talbot, File)

A bill aimed at stopping illegal prescription drug use in Delaware now strengthens efforts to ensure that patients’ medications are not diverted by healthcare professionals or family members.The new law increases the charge from misdemeanor theft to a felony level conviction.

Delaware’s mission to reduce prescription drug abuse started with Attorney General Beau Biden who drafted House Bill 154 last year which was signed by Gov. Jack Markell this week.

“This new law is a powerful tool available to law enforcement as we continue to aggressively combat the growing epidemic of prescription drug abuse in our state,” said Attorney General Biden.

In addition to House Bill 154 creating a new criminal offense of “Medication Diversion” and holding people accountable who intentionally divert prescription narcotics from patients, it also places offenders on the Adult Abuse Registry.

Legislators such as Rep. Rebecca Walker, D-Townsend, and Sen. Bethany Hall-Long, D-Middletown, both sponsored the bill that received unanimous support in both chambers of the General Assembly. According to lawmakers, it doesn’t matter if offenders are licensed healthcare workers who provide treatment to patients, family members or visitors of patients, they will be convicted.

The effort to fight prescription drug use started with Senate Bill 119.   Biden, Hall-Long, and Walker included a two-bill package along with House Bill 154 last year. Senate Bill 119, which was signed into law last year, enhances Delaware’s prescription monitoring efforts. Officials say an alarming number of addicts are turning to emergency rooms to obtain narcotics.

As a result, all medical facilities can not provide more than a 72-hour supply of any controlled substance to patients. In fact, emergency rooms and urgent care clinics are also required to enter any controlled substance into the state’s Prescription Monitoring Program, something pharmacies are already mandated to do.

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