House poised to pass bills on telehealth, drug overdoses, peer specialists
Manny Diaz. Image via Colin Hackley.

The House is standing firm on not allowing audio only phone calls to be considered telehealth.

Three health care bills were discussed and rolled to third reading Tuesday to be considered when the chamber reconvenes later in the week.

A telehealth bill (SB 312) and a drug overdose prevention bill (SB 544) were amended before being rolled to third reading. The third bill (SB 282) is a priority for Sen. Darryl Rouson. It was not amended before being rolled to third reading.

The bill allows for the use of peer specialists in alcohol and drug abuse programs, identifying them as an essential part of a coordinated system of care for the treatment of substance use disorder.

Rouson, who in the past has referred to his battle with alcohol and cocaine addiction, has leveraged his more than two decades of sobriety when pushing substance abuse legislation.

Meanwhile, telehealth is a top priority for Americans for Prosperity as well as physician groups, and the House has agreed to consider SB 312 by Sen. Manny Diaz. The Senate bill would have allowed for telephone audio-only calls to be considered telehealth. But the House tagged on an amendment that deleted the change, leaving the bill identical to its House counterpart, which does not allow for audio-only calls.

The House also altered SB 544, a bill aimed at preventing drug overdoses by allowing pharmacists to order an emergency opioid antagonist for a patient or a caregiver of a patient.

The bill would allow pharmacists to order and dispense certain opioid-blocking drugs like naloxone to provide emergency treatment for a suspected overdose. Law enforcement personnel, including correctional probation officers and child protective investigators, could store and administer the drugs, and they would have immunity from civil or criminal liability for doing so. The bill also authorizes public schools to purchase or enter an arrangement to receive a supply of naloxone.

The Senate bill required the school district to adopt a protocol for tor the administration of naloxone by trained school personnel. The Senate bill also made clear that the school district and its employees and agents are not liable for any injury arising from the use of the drug if it is administered by trained school personnel who follow the standing protocol and whose professional opinion is that the student is having an opioid overdose. The bill made an exception if the employee’s actions were wanton or willful.

But the House tagged on an amendment that deleted that language and replaced it with wording that states, “a school district employee who administers an approved emergency opioid antagonist to a student … is immune from civil liability.”

Christine Jordan Sexton

Tallahassee-based health care reporter who focuses on health care policy and the politics behind it. Medicaid, health insurance, workers’ compensation, and business and professional regulation are just a few of the things that keep me busy.


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