Committee approves Longietti bill to protect drug rehab patients from relapse

Would require contact notification when patient leaves facility against medical advice

HARRISBURG, April 6 – Legislation to open a potentially lifesaving window for drug rehabilitation patients in danger of relapse was unanimously approved today by the House Human Services Committee, according to state Rep. Mark Longietti, one of the bill’s prime sponsors.

Longietti, D-Mercer, said H.B. 944, which he introduced with state Rep. Eric Nelson, R-Westmoreland, would require inpatient rehabilitation facilities to notify a patient’s designated emergency contact when the patient leaves the facility against medical advice.

“This bill is designed to save lives,” Longietti said. “I have heard far too many stories of drug rehabilitation patients who backslide and discharge themselves against medical advice. Before their family members are even aware this has happened, their loved one is picked up by their dealer or enabler and suffers a fatal relapse.

“It is already best practice for inpatient facilities to notify designated emergency contacts, but not all facilities follow this practice. Our bill would write a requirement into law so that families would receive notice in time for potentially lifesaving intervention.”

Longietti said the bill would mandate that the emergency contact be notified immediately and at the very latest within 12 hours after the patient leaves the facility. There would be exceptions for cases when the patient revoked consent to notify the emergency contact or when the facility knew or had reason to know of allegations of domestic violence by the emergency contact.

A prior version of the bill – H.B. 1052 – passed the House last session with unanimous, bipartisan support.