A package of bills recently signed into law will help mitigate Michigan’s growing opioid epidemic, according to a local lawmaker.

Lt. Governor Brian Calley enacted the laws Wednesday while Governor Rick Snyder is out of state. Calley has said the state is “taking an all-hands-on-deck approach” to the opioid epidemic, which he described as a “national emergency”. Republican State Representative Hank Vaupel of Handy Township says the bi-partisan legislation is the first step in the fight against opioid addiction.

Vaupel, who is chair of the House Health Policy Committee, says the bills takes a multi-faceted approach by addressing different components he believes will be helpful in combating the opioid epidemic. Bills in the package will require doctors to educate patients about the potential harm caused by opioids prior to writing a prescription, increase access to addiction treatment programs, and implement school curriculum regarding the risks of prescription drug abuse. The laws also limit the amount of opioids that can be prescribed and require a legitimate physician-patient relationship in order to dispense the drugs.

The requirement for health care providers to use the updated Michigan Automated Prescription System takes effect in June. While proud of the forward movement, Vaupel says the state still has a long way to go. In 2014, there were 568 opioid overdose-related deaths in Michigan. That’s a 911-percent increase since 1999, according to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. (DK)