Governor signs Jackson bill to improve access to opioid alternatives

AUGUSTA – A bill from Senate President Troy Jackson, D-Allagash, that seeks to improve patient access to new non-opioid pain relievers, was signed into law by Governor Janet T. Mills on Monday. The new law – LD 2096, “An Act to Ensure Access to Nonopioid, Nonnarcotic Medication for Acute Pain Relief” – will require state-regulated health insurance plans to have a plan in place to provide adequate coverage of a broad spectrum of pain management services, including non-opioid, non-narcotic medication and to provide educational materials to patients about the options available to them. These plans will be overseen by the bureau to ensure the adequacy of coverage.

“The opioid crisis has devastated families and communities in every corner of the state. Many of the stories begin the same tragic way – a friend or loved one becomes hurt or injured, is prescribed opioid medication to manage the excruciating pain and develops a debilitating addiction. Not only were many patients unaware of just how addictive opioids are, they also didn’t really have any other options,” said President Jackson. “This is why the development of non-opioid medications that can manage pain at the same level as opioids is so promising. This new law is about making sure that Mainers can access and afford non-opioid pain medications as soon as they become available. I’m hopeful it can help prevent addiction in the first place and save lives.”

In response to the opioid epidemic and widespread criticism from the public, many pharmaceutical companies have begun to explore non-opioid pain medication. Though these medications remain in various stages of development, some medications are getting closer to FDA approval. When a new medication is approved, it often remains expensive and inaccessible to patients. 

“As a social worker and former lawmaker who has been working with families and communities devastated by the opioid epidemic, this bill feels so important to our state. A significant portion of initial opioid use still begins with medications prescribed to treat serious, acute pain – such as from an accident or surgery,” testified Hon. Charlotte Warren, Alliance for Addiction and Mental Health Services at the public hearing. “One of the key strategies for addressing the opioid epidemic is to prevent addiction in the first place and to protect against relapse for those stable and in recovery.” 

Under the new law, patients with state-regulated health care plans will have the tools they need to manage their care without risking addiction to opioid or narcotic medication. The goal is to ensure that patients have options when it comes to managing pain without the risk of developing an addiction and to increase access to new drugs when they enter the market that might otherwise be too expensive for patients to be able to afford. 

The new law will apply to all state-regulated health insurance policies continued or renewed on or after Jan. 1, 2026.

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