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Gov. Bill Walker signed House Bill 159 into law, Tuesday. The bill is aimed at confronting the opioid epidemic in Alaska, by setting new education requirements for medical workers, putting new responsibilities on the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services, limiting the prescriptions of opioids to patients and increasing aggressive monitoring.
Under the legislation, prescriptions of opioid-based painkillers would be limited to a maximum of seven days, unless a doctor can document why someone needs a longer prescription. The bill also gives patients the ability to stop doctors from prescribing opioid-based painkillers, if they would rather not use them.
According to the state in 2012, Alaska's prescription opioid pain-reliever overdose death rate was more than double the rate in the United States. And Alaska's heroin-associated overdose death rate was more than 50 percent higher than the national rate.