Bill to stop repeat ER overdose visits moves through first House committee

emergency er visit

A bill seeking to reduce the number of patients visiting hospital emergency rooms repetitively from drug overdoses passed Tuesday unanimously in its first hearing in the House Health Innovation Subcommittee.

Rep. Larry Lee Jr., the sponsor of HB 61, drafted the measure as a means for hospitals to gain more control when dealing with the issue of their emergency rooms being used as free turnstile stops for addicts who accidentally overdose on illicit – and often prescription – drugs over and over again.

The burden placed on emergency room staff that are often busy helping people in life-threatening situations (like car accidents) have become a paramount problem in the health care industry, as has the issue of insurance hikes to Florida taxpayers who wind up footing the bill for addicts who don’t pay for their visits to emergency rooms.

HB 61 would stop that by allowing hospitals with emergency rooms to develop what Lee called a “best practices policy” for ER staff to obtain the patient’s family contacts, or next of kin, and the physician contacts who prescribe medication to those with repetitive overdose issues. The location of the patient would also be given to those family and doctor contacts, along with exactly what kind of drugs or prescription the patient OD’d on – documenting the entire visit to prevent another overdose.

“It has been a lot of work put into this bill … in speaking with staff at different facilities, I learned there have been 15 years put into this bill,” Lee told the committee in closing.

Rep. Daisy Baez, a member of the committee and a former hospital employee, commended Rep. Lee for getting the bill drafted.

“I worked for 10 years as a health care worker and dealt with this issue directly,” Baez told Lee before the committee vote. “We don’t want to burden staffs who are actually trying to treat others in true emergencies, so that’s why I’m going to support this bill.”

The bill also provides emergency rooms with ways to provide the patient with information about licensed substance abuse treatment services, voluntary admission procedures, involuntary admission procedures and involuntary commitment process.

Also, the measure would set up formal guidelines for ER staff to prescribe controlled substances to such patients to reduce opioid use and misuse. Opioid addiction has become an epidemic across the country in the last 10 years.

Licensed or certified behavioral health professionals would also be staffed in ER departments, per the bill’s requirement, to advise patients to seek addiction treatment.

According to data from the Florida Department of Health, between 2004 and 2009, emergency department visits nationally involving the nonmedical use of pharmaceuticals increased 98.4 percent, from 627,291 visits to 1,244,679 visits. In 2009, almost 1 million emergency room visits nationwide involved illicit drugs, either alone or in combination with other drugs.

From 2008 to 2011, about half of all emergency department visits in the U.S. for both unintentional and self-inflicted drug poisoning involved drugs in the categories of analgesics, antipyretics and antirheumatics or sedatives, hypnotics, tranquilizers and other psychotropic agents.

Opiates or related narcotics, including heroin and methadone, accounted for 14 percent of emergency department visits nationally for unintentional drug poisoning from 2008 to 2011. In Florida, there were approximately 21,700 opioid-related emergency department visits in 2014.

Separately, the committee also passed four other measures Tuesday:  HB 863HB 993HB 1195 and HB 1209.


Les Neuhaus

Les Neuhaus is an all-platform journalist, with specialties in print reporting and writing. In addition to Florida Politics, he freelances as a general-assignment and breaking-news reporter for most of the major national daily newspapers, along with a host of digital media, and a human rights group. A former foreign correspondent across Africa and Asia, including the Middle East, Les covered a multitude of high-profile events in chronically-unstable nations. He’s a veteran of the U.S. Air Force, in which he served as a Security Policeman, and graduated from the University of Tennessee with a B.A. in political science. He is a proud father to his daughter and enjoys spending time with his family.


  • Heidi

    March 14, 2017 at 8:25 pm

    This would be great but first ER’s would have to actually run labs to find out what drugs the person took. My son was released from an er with no labs or urine and was still overdosing in the hospital waiting room for hours!!! All of these kids deserve to be treated like human beings. This bill should also include an overdose team of volunteers that can be there to help these kids before they are shown the door.

  • Ellen

    March 15, 2017 at 11:15 am

    The tone of this bill is pretty offensive. Get the overdosing addicts out of the way fast so “real” emergencies can be treated. What do you call a person suffering from a fatal brain disorder who is dying? There need to be protocols to treat people with this disease and when they present in the ER. This is the perfect time to try to move them into a treatment situation. But instead we continue to shame them and try to get them out of the way. Treat ’em and street ’em has killed a lot of people. It is interesting to note that the biggest insurance payer for overdoses in Florida is Medicare. Should we throw grandma out in the street too?

    • Uncle Sam

      March 21, 2017 at 3:23 pm


  • Nan

    March 15, 2017 at 2:34 pm

    yes what a marvel idea… an overdose team much like a code blue team or a stroke alert team! We need cities and communities to include this in their public services.
    And on another note, what about going after the physicians that prescribe these over and over again? How about a tougher bill to drug dealers?

  • Janet Colbert

    March 15, 2017 at 2:47 pm

    If Representative Baez would pass “real legislation that would result in fewer pills we wouldn’t have all
    the overdoses. That was a very insensitive remark by Rep Baez and shows her lack of education regarding the highly addictive nature of the opiate age group most affected is now the Medicare patient. Fewer pills will equal fewer deaths

  • Ellen

    March 15, 2017 at 3:52 pm

    An overdose isn’t a true emergency? Tell that to the thousands of Florida families that lost loved ones this past year. This is a pretty insulting article. I’m glad this bill is at least providing a start for changes in the treatment of overdose patients but attitudes like those of Rep. Baez are contributing to the problem. The majority of overdose claims are paid by Medicare. The stereotype doesn’t fit a large number of patients who come to the ER overdosing. Are we going to pass over grandma in favor of a more deserving person.

  • Karen M. Jones

    March 15, 2017 at 8:21 pm

    This journalist is demonizing the disease of addiction and minimizing the largest current Healthcare epidemic Opiate and Heroin addiction! Typical journalist though… I am greatful some ER’s are finally putting together a “Plan of Care” addressing this epidemic that kills more young people than automobile accidents.

  • colleen

    March 16, 2017 at 8:44 am

    All the replies are so right on….its education my friends… education….

  • Penny Blake, RN, CCRN, CEN

    March 21, 2017 at 12:20 pm

    If you want to get a handle on decreasing the number of overdoses, we have to first address the underlying cause. Mental health and substance abuse resources for Americans are woefully lacking. And substance abuse is one of the number one ways people with mental health issues attempt to self medicate when they cannot get the help they need. It is time for us to provide the care and outpatient resources for these diseases in the same way we provide resources for those with cancer, diabetes, heart disease and other physical ailments. Insurance companies need to get on board with parity in payments for these conditions. Only until we stop stigmatizing people and start offering them real treatment will this epidemic be conquered. And, just so you know, I have been an ER nurse for more years than I care to say.

  • Rebecca

    March 21, 2017 at 4:37 pm

    This is a stupid bill for many reasons.
    Drug addicts may be annoying but as nurses we need to treat ALL patients. OD patients often are in bad state and need life saving interventions. Does this bill stop EMS from bringing the unconscious PT to ED? You can’t not provide care based on a person’s poor decision making. (I get more annoyed with the parents who can’t give Tylenol to their kids with a fever).
    Not sure of the purpose of having ED staff call the prescriber and let them know a person has OD’ed, especially if we’re coding him/her. Letting them have the documentation of the person’s visit isnt really a life-changing intervention.
    Rep Biaz’s 10y experience in Healthcare obviously wasn’t in ER.
    What a waste of time and money.

Comments are closed.


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