By Josh Mitchell
Corinth Today News Editor
A bill that would have penalized coroners and healthcare providers for failing to report overdose deaths to the Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics died in a state Senate committee Tuesday.
House Bill 1020 passed the House this month with strong bipartisan support on a 108-8 vote.
Coroners and healthcare providers would have been fined $500 for a first offense and $1,000 for a second offense. A third failure to report an overdose death would have carried a $5,000 fine and a one-year suspension of the applicable professional license. Officials could have regained their licenses if all fines and fees were paid and all other conditions were met.
The bill would have required coroners and health care providers to notify the MBN of overdose deaths within 48 business hours of receiving written confirmation of the death.
The nation is in an opioid crisis, and tens of thousands of people die each year from overdoses, officials say. Local law enforcement has expressed concerns about potential rises in heroin and fentanyl.
Neighboring Alabama and Tennessee have seen increases in fentanyl and heroin. Alabama has also seen a return of black tar heroin.
Under the bill, coroners and healthcare providers suspected of not reporting overdose deaths would have been entitled to a hearing before MBN assessed any fines or penalties. The revenue from fines would have gone to MBN.
The bill was sponsored by State Rep. Patricia Willis, R-Diamondhead, who is the chairwoman of the House Drug Policy Committee. State Rep. William Tracy Arnold, R-Booneville, also serves on that committee.
Current state law says coroners, health care providers and law enforcement officials must notify MBN of overdose deaths within 24 hours. But the current law does not impose any penalties for failure to report fatal overdoses.
Other than providing penalties, the bill would have also removed law enforcement as one of the required reporting parties. The bill also would have extended the 24-hour time period for notification to 48 business hours upon “receipt of written confirmation of the cause of death.”