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Iowa doctors to screen patients for addiction risk before prescribing painkillers

Bill that became law yesterday aims to curb opioid epidemic

Posted: May. 15, 2018 8:41 PM

MASON CITY, Iowa - Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds is taking a new step in combating the opioid epidemic in the state.

The new law, which was signed yesterday during a visit to a medical center that treats addicts in Dubuque, requires doctors to screen patients for signs of addiction before prescribing painkillers. In addition, the "Good Samaritan" portion of the law means people would not face legal repercussion if they report an overdose.

Charles City Police Captain Brandon Franke has noticed a slight increase in calls for overdoses recently. To combat this, the department uses Narcan kits, which can immediately reverse the effects of an overdose.

With witnesses not having to worry about any legal issues about reporting an overdose, Franke says a call is vital in a life or death emergency when each second matters.

"I think it's a good deal. Obviously the people that are overdosing need help right away, the person that's calling out doesn't need to worry about ramifications from calling that in," Franke says.

Dr. Charity Baker of Rockwell has been practicing medicine since 2005.

Ever since she was in residence, Baker would log information and run reports about patients' prescriptions and medical history to an online registry, including the Iowa Board of Pharmacy's Prescription Monitoring Program.

Even though the law would require doctors to screen patients, Baker has been doing it for years, and believes every doctor should be doing this.

"We've had this available. I thought most providers were using this website, and people should be warned. For years, they've been tracking who's filling what and where they're filling it and how they're paying for it," Baker says.

Baker adds that Iowa, along with Minnesota, Nebraska and Illinois, share information with each other to track those who may try to abuse prescriptions across state lines. In addition, Baker has also noticed cues in behavior for addicts.

"There's patterns to behavior, there's patterns to the way patients might ask for something or the way they word things that will tip us off," Baker adds.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, in 2016, there were 183 deaths related to an opioid overdose in Iowa. In Minnesota, that number was 396.

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