Senate Bill No. 457 – Committee on Health and Human Services
AN ACT relating to health care; requiring the reporting of a death at certain facilities and homes as a sentinel event; requiring the posting on the Internet of certain information concerning facilities and programs for the treatment of the abuse of alcohol or drugs; and providing other matters properly relating thereto.
Statement below for testifying in favor of transparency, amendments to NVSB457:
I want to take a moment and acknowledge Nevada legislators for taking addiction, substance abuse, and this opioid epidemic seriously. Enacting legislation to help Nevadans fight the disease of addiction, and the growing number of deaths, is something that has been needed for some time and I applaud our senate for taking action.
While I support transparency and accountability in the addiction treatment space, this bill currently unjustly and wrongly paints treatment providers and treatment professionals, who have dedicated their lives to treating those with the disease of addiction, many of whom are in recovery from the disease themselves as individuals causing reckless deaths without anyone overseeing them, without a care in the world. This simply is not true.
State Senator Julia Ratti said in an interview that “these facilities are not monitored by the state nor are they required to report events such as patient deaths to any authority.” This statement is not just false, it’s misleading. Not only are treatment facilities held to standards set by the government in order to do business, but they must also be accredited by either The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (government) or private organizations such as the Joint Commission or the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (nonprofit). On top of this, all sentinel events must be reported to The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Not only does this bill vilify healthcare professionals, but it puts the treatment that IS available to those in need at risk of not being able to provide that treatment. The bill requires “the posting on the Internet of certain information concerning facilities and programs for the treatment of the abuse of alcohol or drugs.” This may seem like a smart idea for the loved ones of someone looking for a treatment facility to be able to see when there was a sentinel event at a facility. However, this does harm, not good. Most facilities will at some point during their operating timeframe face client deaths, with some occurring on site, as they would at a hospital. As someone who has lived a life in addiction and in recovery, and someone who has dedicated over a decade of his life to treating those with the disease of addiction, I can tell you that deaths are a devastating part of this disease. As a treatment professional, we try our very best to prevent these events, but death is a part of addiction that despite some of the best efforts, can still arise.
While I am in full support of transparency on behalf of treatment providers, I do not agree that vilifying treatment professionals and the idea of treatment will be productive as we continue facing the drug epidemic in the state and country. Focusing on deaths as the sole rating that is available to those seeking treatment will work towards vilifying treatment, and causing individuals or their loved ones to make dangerous decisions like at-home detox, or using 12-steps as a treatment option (it isn’t) instead of receiving real treatment.
According to the CDC, 676 deaths in 2017 occurred due to drug overdose. Hundreds more occurred due to conditions caused by long-time use of alcohol and drugs. I want to work with the Nevada legislation to enact bills that will help save lives and get people into treatment to lower addiction-related deaths in our state. As I stated, I am speaking in favor of encouraging treatment providers to follow the same reporting standards that are required of hospitals and other medical facilities (in many cases, these standards are already being followed.) However, just focusing on client deaths without any other performance statistic will be detrimental to treatment advances; moreover, it will actively turn those needing help away from seeking and receiving it.