DOVER - In a 38-0 vote, the Delaware House of Representatives has passed Senate Bill 41 overwhelmingly.
SB 41, sponsored by Stephanie Hansen, D-Middletown, would save lives and help stem the addiction epidemic by requiring health insurers to cover medically necessary treatment for addiction—including diagnosis, medication for addiction and/or withdrawal, and in-patient treatment—for up to 14 days without requiring patients to clear pre-admission hurdles like pre-authorization or medical referrals.
Hansen called the House vote a victory for addicts and families across the state.
“This is a common sense reform that I’m proud to have played a role in moving forward,” said Sen. Hansen. “I’ve heard countless stories of loss and desperation, in my district and across the state, from addicts and their families. Some of the most heartbreaking—and, sadly, some of the most common—are of people in crisis who sought out and nearly got the treatment they needed, only to be turned away at the door because of fine print in their insurance policy. For some of us, even a day’s delay in medical attention is an inconvenience; for an addict, it may well be the difference between life and death.”
SB 41’s passage comes amid a deadly opioid addiction epidemic that continues to escalate in Delaware and across the country. More Americans were killed by overdoses than car crashes or gun homicides last year, according to national statistics. Fentanyl-related overdoses alone more than tripled in Delaware last year as the state suffered record numbers of overdose fatalities.
A bi-partisan group of co-sponsors agreed that the reforms made by SB 41 are particularly urgent in light of the ongoing devastation of the addiction epidemic.
“Substance abuse treatment is an important part of helping people reintegrate into society and lead productive lives. Denying people suffering from substance abuse the treatment they need can lead to them relapsing and either ending up in prison or worse,” said Rep. Michael Mulrooney, D-New Castle, the lead sponsor in the House. “Put simply, this bill will help save lives in Delaware. I'm looking forward to it being signed into law.”
“Addiction is a disease, like cancer or diabetes, and it should be considered one when it comes to medical treatment. Delawareans struggling with substance use disorder should be extended a helping hand when they seek treatment, not have the door shut in their faces,” said Rep. Helene Keeley, D-Wilmington, a co-sponsor of SB 41. “This bill will help residents in our state get the treatment they need when they need it, without having to jump through unnecessary hoops.”
“We mustn’t fail to provide safety-nets for those in need of immediate treatment, and we must work to ensure current policies align with the increasing needs of Delawareans affected by addiction,” said co-sponsor Sen. Anthony DelCollo, R-Marshallton. “I’m proud to support the Attorney General’s legislation and applaud him for leading this effort.”
“In light of the scourge of addiction, we need to get these people appropriate treatment when it’s needed. The current coverages are insufficient,” added co-sponsor Sen. Dave Lawson, R-Hartly.
SB 41 is the result of a collaborative effort between legislators and the Department of Justice. In addition to the attorney general, the legislation enjoys support from Insurance Commissioner Trinidad Navarro, Delaware’s addiction support community, and local addicts in recovery—some of whom shared their stories during the legislation’s committee hearings.
“Fighting opioid addictions is one of my priorities not just because of the effect it has on crime but even more so because of the effect it is having on individuals, families and communities,” said Attorney General Matt Denn. “This bill arose out of conversations I had with those recovering from substance use and with the families of some who were not so fortunate. Hopefully it will prevent at least a few future tragedies by eliminating bureaucratic barriers that have stood between people and treatment at the critical moment they are ready to begin their recovery.”
"This bill will prevent others from being denied treatment,” said Don Keister, who co-founded atTAcK addiction after losing his son, Tyler, to an overdose. “My son was instructed to come to a treatment facility for help. When he got there he was turned away, and one month later he was gone. When a person requests help, it needs to be immediate. Thank you to the state legislators who passed this bill for helping those with substance use disorder receive the help they need."
SB 41 now heads to the desk of Gov. John Carney.