The Senate this week advanced several measures aimed at combating Oklahoma’s epidemic of prescription drug abuse, including legislation I have authored to strengthen regulations on controlled substances in nursing homes.
Senate Bill 1243 would require nursing homes and home care services to obtain a registration from the Oklahoma State Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs Control, strengthening the regulation of narcotics. This is an important measure to limit diversion and ensure these substances are being used as prescribed.
Another measure approved in the Senate builds upon legislation I authored last year to improve the state’s prescription monitoring program. Senate Bill 1821 will require doctors to check the state’s online prescription monitoring program before prescribing a narcotic. This proposal will crack down on doctor shopping, prescription fraud and other activities that have contributed to Oklahoma’s prescription abuse problem. Oklahomans age 12 and older exceed the national average for the use of painkillers by more than 65 percent. And, more than 80 percent of drug-related deaths in Oklahoma are caused by prescription drugs. As a state, we have to address this issue.
The Senate also unanimously approved my proposal to limit Oklahoma’s stake in the Lifeline Program, which has been rife with fraud and abuse. Senate Bill 1510 limits the amount telecommunications providers can be reimbursed through the Lifeline Fund to two cents per month, per Lifeline subscriber. Two Oklahoma companies last year paid significant penalties resulting from an FCC investigation related to their participation in the program. The FCC found the two companies failed to adequately document individuals enrolled in the program, resulting in numerous participants receiving duplicate wireless or landline services.
Also approved during this busy legislative week was my proposal specifying that TANF recipients who misuse the funds at establishments like liquor stores, casinos and strip clubs, will be subject to a reduction in their benefit amounts. This deterrent will help ensure such funds are being used for their intended purpose.