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NCPA's Advocacy Efforts

The NC Psychiatric Association is a non-partisan organization that works to represent and advance the practice of medicine and psychiatry in North Carolina through the policy-making and legislative process. But what does that actually mean and how do we advocate for our members and the mental health field?

  • Our Executive Director is a registered lobbyist who works hard to make sure psychiatrists, providers and mental health professionals are at the table during important policy-making discussions and meetings. 
  • We attend legislative meetings and talk to legislators and other policy makers to make sure they have the facts about how legislative decisions will affect patients, providers and others. 
  • We track legislation that affects both the mental health field, including issues related to substance use disorders, and the practice of psychiatry. 
  • We are part of statewide coalitions, committees and work groups that discuss mental health and substance use disorders to monitor issues, trends and policies. 
  • We sponsor and participate in advocacy events at the General Assembly. Our members also participate in White Coat Wednesday events where physicians attend the General Assembly to raise awareness of medical issues and the practice of medicine in North Carolina. 
  • We issue position statements and communicate with legislators, the Governor and other government officials about the benefits and potential consequences of specific legislation and policies. 

We encourage our members and the public to stay informed and involved, and we hope the resources found here will help you do that.

 
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Gov. Cooper Signs the STOP Act Into Law

On June 29th, after passing both the State House and Senate, Governor Roy Cooper signed the Strengthen Opioid Misuse Prevention (STOP) Act into law. The STOP Act has garnered significant attention since January from legislators, the media, and the public for its efforts to address the opioid crisis occurring in North Carolina. Here are some details from the bill.

The bill limits first-time prescriptions of Schedule II and III opioids for acute pain to no more than 5 days and no more than 7 days after a surgical procedure. These guidelines do not apply to hospitals, nursing homes, hospice facilities, or residential care facilities. Effective January 1, 2018.

The STOP Act requires prescribers of opioids to check the North Carolina Controlled Substance Reporting System (CSRS) prior to first-time prescriptions of opioids and then every 90 days if substances are continued. This process must be documented in the medical record; failure to do so may result in reporting to the North Carolina Medical Board. This will take effect after significant improvements to the CSRS are made.

The bill will also require physician assistants and nurse practitioners to personally consult with their supervising physician if a script is to exceed 30 days and at least every 90 days if the script is continued, effective immediately July 1, 2017.

Psychiatrists should know that --because of NCPA advocacy-- drugs routinely used in your practices (stimulants, depressants) are NOT included in the definition of "targeted controlled substances" in the STOP Act. The exact drugs that are included are those listed only in the sections 1 and 2 of G.S. 90-90(1) & (2) and section D of G.S. 90-91(d)

Electronic prescribing will be required for all "targeted controlled substance" (opioid) prescriptions. As this is viewed to be a significant request, the state will give practices and providers until January 1, 2020 to be in compliance. These guidelines do not apply to hospitals, nursing homes, hospice facilities, or residential care facilities. One of the exceptions is a "practitioner who experiences temporary technological or electrical failure or other extenuating circumstance that prevents the prescription from being transmitted electronically." This must be documented in the medical record.

The STOP Act will allow for increased community distribution of naloxone and education for its administration, allows for "public funds" (although not "state funds," an improvement) to be used in needle exchange programs, and requires in-home hospice providers to educate families about proper disposal of medications, effective July 1, 2017.

While the bill currently excludes veterinarians, it calls for a study of how to implement some STOP Act provisions in these settings. It also requires an annual report to licensing boards and the legislature on CSRS data.

The original legislation included funding for treatment, but this language was removed. The state has received, however, a $31 million federal grant to be used over the next two years for treatment and program development.

While psychiatrists are not regular prescribers of opioids, this bill can impact many of the patients we care for and see. It represents state recognition of the impacts of a substance use disorder and the necessity for carefully crafted legislation to address the issue. As psychiatrists will continue to be on the front lines of substance use treatment, this bill should provide assistance In our fight for patient safety and mental health.

View NCMB Summary of the STOP Act
 
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NCPA's Advocacy Events

Each year, NCPA holds Legislative Advocacy Days where members travel to Raleigh to meet with legislators at the NC General Assembly. These advocacy days allow members to experience the legislative process first-hand, meet directly with their district's legislators, and educate government officials about policy issues. 

Many times, NCPA Advocacy Days will coincide with the NC Medical Society's White Coat Wednesdays. Members attend a policy education and training session and learn how to best approach legislators about important health care issues. These days are fast-paced and make an impact.

If you are interested in learning about or participating in an Advocacy Day, contact us!