TRENTON – Legislation sponsored by Senator Joseph F. Vitale and Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg that would require certain health care professionals to complete continuing education credits on topics related to prescription opioids cleared the Senate today.

     The bill, S2419, would require health care professionals who have authority to prescribe opioid medications, including physicians, physician assistants, dentists and optometrists, to complete one continuing education credit on topics that include responsible prescribing practices, alternatives to opioids for pain management and treatment, and the risks and signs of opioid abuse, addiction and diversion.

     "As we continue to face the challenging opioid crisis, equipping our health care professionals with the right knowledge and tools through ongoing training is critical to success," said Senator Vitale (D-Middlesex). "This bill provides for such training to be completed as part of the current continuing professional education requirements in New Jersey, which will ensure that our providers are well prepared and informed to care for their patients in the best way possible."

     Health care professionals who do not have prescribing authority but who frequently interact with patients who may be prescribed opioids, such as pharmacists and professional and practical nurses, would also be required to complete one continuing education credit on the same topics.

     "Prescription opioid painkillers have presented a unique danger for misuse and abuse and paved the way to the heroin epidemic we face today," said Senator Weinberg (D-Bergen). "Health care providers must be a part of minimizing the potential for misuse through their own ongoing education, and this bill addresses that need."

     Under the bill, certified nurse midwives would also be required to complete one credit of educational programs or topics related to prescription opioid drugs as part of the 30 contact hours in pharmacology training that is currently required for them to be authorized to prescribe drugs.

     The bill provides that the continuing education credits would be part of a health care professional's regular continuing education credits required and not in addition to them.

     The bill was approved by the Senate with a vote of 23-6. It next heads to the Assembly for consideration.