CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — Schools in West Virginia will be able to give drugs to students who overdose on opioids without having to first contact parents under a new law approved this week.
The measure passed unanimously by the state Legislature and signed Tuesday by Gov. Jim Justice comes as West Virginia recorded 844 overdose deaths last year, more than 700 involving at least one opioid such as heroin, fentanyl or prescription painkillers.
It was one of several West Virginia amendments to health care laws enacted over the past two weeks.
The law applies to public and private schools. It authorizes school nurses and other authorized personnel to administer the antidote to students, staff or others during regular school hours or at functions and events on school property.
The law takes effect 90 days from passage. The state Board of Education will develop regulations for training, storage and notifying parents after incidents.
Another new West Virginia law protects doctors and other licensed medical personnel from civil liability for providing free emergency care at school athletic events and practices. The protection doesn't apply to "to acts or omissions constituting gross negligence or willful misconduct."
Concerning health insurers' step therapy protocols that first require the most cost-effective medication for a condition, another new law sets terms for exceptions. It requires carriers establish a process for requesting immediate coverage of the drugs a patient's doctor prescribes instead of the other medication, often a cheaper generic equivalent.
It calls for promptly approving the alternative when the insurer's preferred medication was previously found ineffective for the patient.
One new law authorizes hospitals to offer flu shots to inpatients 65 and over prior to discharge between Oct. 1 and March 1. Another would let pharmacists give immunization shots against the flu and the human papilloma virus, a common venereal infection, with a doctor's prescription.
Justice signed a law exempting financially distressed hospitals from going through the traditional Certificate of Need process in acquisition proceedings. He said it would help save 1,500 jobs at Ohio Valley Medical Center.
Irvine, California-based Alecto Healthcare Services has announced plans to buy the Wheeling hospital and its affiliate East Ohio Regional Hospital in Martins Ferry, Ohio. Alecto had applied for a certificate from the West Virginia Health Care Authority.