During 2018, the West Virginia Legislature took several important steps to supplement and strengthen the State’s response to the opioid epidemic. 

First, the West Virginia Legislature passed Senate Bill 272 to create the West Virginia Office of Drug Control Policy, and to adopt a pilot program to assess a proposed Community Overdose Response Demonstration Pilot Project.

Second, the West Virginia legislature also adopted Senate Bill 273, which imposes important limits on how physicians in the state can prescribe opioids for pain in various settings, including emergency rooms, physician offices and by dentists and optometrists.

Third, on November 12, 2018, the West Virginia Legislature made important changes to legislative rules governing medication-assisted treatment (MAT) programs. MAT programs use medications like methadone, naltrexone and buprenorphine to treat opioid addictions in conjunction with therapies designed to manage and overcome opioid addiction.

One notable change in the new rules allows private physician offices that treat 30 or less patients with opioid addictions to provide MAT programs without registering as a pain clinic. Other changes provided by the rules include:

  • Eliminating the initial assessment requirement;
  • Eliminating the 24-hour prescription and dose information hotline;
  • Making it easier to allow cash only payments;
  • Loosening criteria for dosage protocols;
  • Eliminating certain quality assurance requirements; and
  • Allowing more flexible staffing requirements

The rule changes can be found here.

Many states adopted overly strict rules governing the licensure and operations of pain clinics and MAT programs to clamp down on the misuse of these programs. However, considerable research suggests that MAT programs are increasingly seen as the most effective means to provide a long-term treatment solution to opioid addiction. Several of these rule changes effectively loosen earlier restrictions that were designed to clamp down on abusive programs, but that also hampered the development of effective MAT programs and unduly restricted the development of widespread and effective treatments for patients with opioid addictions.